Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB
Original title: Die Macht Der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl
France/United Kingdom/Germany/Belgium, 1993. ARTE, Channel Four Films, Nomad Films, Omega Film GmbH, Without Walls, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Screenplay by Ray Muller. Cinematography by Michel Baudour, Walter A. Franke, Ulrich Janchen, Jurgen Martin. Produced by Jacques de Clercq, Dimitri de Clercq, Waldemar Januzczak, Hans Peter Kochenrath, Hans-Jurgen Panitz. Music by Ulrich Bassenge, Wolfgang Neumann. Film Editing by Vera Dubsikova, Beate Koster.
Long considered to be the greatest female filmmaker in cinema history, Leni Riefenstahl is shown in this top-notch documentary to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time without the gender caveat. A German dancer and actress in the 1920s and 30s, Riefenstahl’s first film The Blue Light caught the eye of Adolph Hitler, who then commissioned her to make a documentary film of his congress in Nuremberg. The result, Triumph Of The Will, is now considered a textbook example in propaganda film, followed by the epic documentary about the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games that has been listed as one of the greatest films of all time. Despite all these titles and accolades, Riefenstahl is still dogged by ties to Nazi Germany, her feature film career ending with the war, and her struggle to clear her name and be recognized as an artist a quest with apparently no end. In this three hour film, director Ray Muller quizzes a now ninety-year old but still incredibly strong Riefenstahl about her entire life, and she describes in amazing detail all the aspects of her films as well as her repeated assertion that she never belonged to the Nazi party and only made that film as a job. She maintains that it was her perfectionism as an artist that made the film as powerful and impressive as it was, that an artistic drive commanded it and not a political one. Is she remembering the past through a convenient filter or was she naive to what was happening around her? Whatever your belief is about her testimony, the documentary impresses you with the power of her work and her life.