Segments in this Video

A Portrait of Leni Riefenstahl (03:48)


Leni Riefenstahl describes her passion for beautiful and dangerous mountains. "Triumph of the Will" and "Olympia" are two of the director's best-known films. Soon, she will release her first film in 20 years, a documentary on the Nuba people; she is also planning on writing her memoirs.

Cinematic Beginning (02:17)

Riefenstahl captured the attention Max Reinhardt who gave her a dance solo in the German Theater. Dr. Fanck gave her roles in his mountain films "White Hell of Pitz Palu," "Das Schicksal derer von Habsburg ," "Der große Sprung," and "Storm over Mont Blanc."

"S.O.S Eisberg" (03:11)

Riefenstahl describes the differences between performing on a mountain and a Hollywood set. Hidden from the camera, Ernst Udet piloted the plane for the film, while Riefenstahl acted. Riefenstahl brought books to read while there but was too fascinated by Greenland's landscape.

"The Blue Light": Part One (02:57)

In collaboration with Bela Balacz, Riefenstahl directed her own fairy tale "The Blue Light." Junta, the protagonist, does not exist in the real world but falls in love with a mortal man. When he destroys the crystal cave, Junta dies.

"The Blue Light": Part Two (03:23)

Riefenstahl describes how she found a village whose townsfolk possessed the exact features she wanted for her extras in the film. Riefenstahl "The Blue Light" was released in the United States in conjunction with Charlie Chaplain's film "The Immigrant." In 1952, she re-edited the film and added a different score.

"The Victory of Faith" (02:04)

Riefenstahl describes how she knew a lot about film and filmmaking, but was very innocent in other aspects. "The Victory of Faith" recounted Nuremberg's "Day of Unity" rally for the Nazi party, but a print has not been discovered. "The Triumph of the Will" captured the 1934 Nuremberg rally.

"The Triumph of Will": Part One (02:34)

Watch an excerpt of the film. Adolph Hitler commissioned an elevator to be built so the filmmaker could capture large moving landscapes. Riefenstahl explains how her femininity helped her obtain her goals.

"The Triumph of Will": Part Two (04:07)

The last 18 minutes of the film contains a multiple camera shoot where the Nazi soldiers are marching out of Nuremberg. In the editing room, Herbert Windt discovered that the marching in the film, did not match his musical score and Riefenstahl composed her own. She describes her intensity while creating the film

Premiered on March 28th, 1935 (03:37)

"Triumph of the Will" received good reviews, but Germans thought it too artistic. Luis Buñuel released a shortened version of the film still circulates throughout the United States. Afterward, Riefenstahl received much criticism for her relationship with the Nazi party and several unfounded rumors hindered her career.

Needing Rest (03:19)

The "London Sunday Times" hired Riefenstahl to photograph the 1972 Olympics. After "The Triumph of the Will," the filmmaker decided to direct a film about ancient Greece. Riefenstahl started to think she had a talent for filming documentaries.

"Olympia": History (03:26)

Riefenstahl shelved "Penthesilea" which was based upon a play by Heinrich von Kleist and asked UFA for money to produce it after obtaining permission. The crew incorporated telephoto lenses, runways, trenches, balloons, and dollies into the cinematography. The filmmaker spent the next 18 months editing her footage down to four hours and released an English, German, French, and Italian version.

"Olympia": Aesthetics (04:54)

Riefenstahl decided to concentrate the beauty of the human athlete instead of making it a sports films, and focused mainly on diving and gymnastics. Watch an excerpt of the diving section.

"Olympia": Legacy (01:33)

"Olympia" won the Venice Film Festival, but authorities confiscated the English version after the war erupted, which turned into a training video for recruits. Walt Disney refused to see Riefenstahl's print of "Olympia" upon her visit to America in 1938.

"Lowland": Part One (02:17)

Riefenstahl portrayed the gypsy girl in the adaptation by Eugen D'Albert. "Lowland" returns to the theme of nature vs. civilization and incorporates a Marxist message. Watch an excerpt of the film.

Losing Everything (02:29)

Americans captured Riefenstahl and held her in Kutzbuhel, Salzburg and then sent her to Germany for a hearing with the 7th Army. The French government confiscated all her editing equipment and film reels. Riefenstahl married Major Peter Jacob and tried to regain her reputation by suing for libel and attending a de-Nazification Tribunal.

"Lowland": Part Two (04:41)

The French government returned her confiscated materials from "Lowland." Watch an excerpt of the first scene.

African Photography (03:27)

Riefenstahl read that Arabs were purchasing Africans as slaves and decided to make a film. She traveled to Africa and started photographing the Maasai tribe. Civilization encroaches on the Nuba people's way of life.

Riefenstahl's Future (02:11)

Riefenstahl still skis and mountain climbs at the age of 71. Soon her book of Nuba photographs will be released and she is considering returning to "Penthesilea." Riefenstahl describes how she needs to know why things occur and prefers living an honest life.

Credits: Leni Riefenstahl (00:23)

Credits: Leni Riefenstahl

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Leni Riefenstahl

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The career of filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl is interviewed in her home and in an Alpine setting. With excerpts from her films, and print and photographic material from her own archive. Films excerpted include Das Blaue Licht (The Blue Light), Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), Olympia and Tiefland --all of which she directed, and scenes from films in which she started her acting career. Riefenstahl talks about many of her experiences in casting, shooting, editing and scoring her film, as well as about her childhood, interest in the arts, early career as dancer, introduction to films by director Arnold Fanck, relationship to leaders of the Third Reich regime, her interest in the lives of “primitive” or “natural” peoples unspoiled by civilization, her struggles to regain control of her films after World War Two, and her journey to the Nuba people of Africa.

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL128494

ISBN: 978-1-64023-326-3

Copyright date: ©1973

Closed Captioned

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