Tuesday 20 April 2010

Triumph of Leni

I’m a huge admirer of the film work of Leni Riefenstahl. I think Triumph of the Will and Olympia two of the most impressive documentaries ever made. People always look at me slightly askance when I make this admission, as if I was identifying with the political message being conveyed. I do not, not for a moment. I also admire D W Griffith's Birth of a Nation, a great milestone in movie-making, though one that conveyed an unpleasant and racist message. So, yes, there are instances where the medium can be separated from the message.

Triumph of the Will is just so good in Riefenstahl’s mastery of direction, the innovative way she makes use of the camera, breaking boundaries never attempted by others. But there is another reason for my admiration which goes beyond her capacity as a film-maker. Quite simply she was able to make here own way in one of the most chauvinist, anti-feminist political systems ever devised by man, and I really do mean man.

To come to the attention of Hitler by virtue of her skills alone was a real achievement. To be accorded the right to make Triumph of the Will and thus get the better of Josef Goebbels, who by 1934 controlled just about all Germany media through the Propaganda Ministry, was an even greater achievement. So, despite the criticisms, despite her associations, she will remain as one of my heroines and avatars.


  1. Triumph of the Will is a truly awesome visual experience, I don't think it has ever truly been bettered. Shame about the political system behind it though as you said.

  2. This German film star passed away on 9 September 2003 aged 101. The coffin was laid in state at the Ostfriedhof Cemetery in Munich on 12, where hundreds of mourners paid their last respects.