Leni Reifenstahl

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Some people are swept along by events. Some individuals use events to advantage. How accurate is this statement in relation to the personality you have studied? “Leni Riefenstahl exploits events and other people to serve her own egotistical, obsessive and selfish ambition.” Leni Riefenstahl was born on the 22nd of August 1902 in Berlin. Her full name was Helene Amalie Bertha Riefenstahl. She accomplished a lot during her 101 years of living. She had successful careers as a dancer, actress, director, producer, editor, photographer, author, and mountain climber, as well as one of the world's oldest active scuba divers. Furthermore, she has been induced as one of The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time. However her accomplishments will always be frowned upon given her association with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Riefenstahl had been known to edit scenes from her life, alter details and omit events to suit her purposes. She did this so others would see her as flawless. This has been proven by her quote “reality doesn’t interest me”. When considering the above thesis statement, 2 differing perspectives arise. The first supports the thesis and is that Riefenstahl was so driven to be worldly famous and recognised that she didn’t care what the cost. The second objects the thesis and is that Riefenstahl could not have possibly predicted the purpose and effects of her films, or Hitler’s intentions for world domination. An historian who supports the first perspective is Steven Bach. In ‘The life and work of Leni Riefenstahl’ he argues that Riefenstahl was obsessed with her career and moulding her image, and that these things are the keys to understanding her behaviour throughout her life. He believes she knew more about Nazism than she would have liked people to believe. An historian who supports the second view is Audrey Salkeld. In ‘A portrait of Leni Riefenstahl’ she argues that much of the condemnation of Riefenstahl came from hindsight. According to Salkeld, Riefenstahl could not have known of the horrors that occurred under Nazism.

Three influential events during Riefenstahl’s lifetime that create debate in relation to the thesis are; the direction of “Tiefland”, The Nuremburg rallies movies (Victory of faith, and Triumph of the will), and her documentary of the Berlin Olympics (Olympia). Tiefland

Tiefland is a 1954 film that Leni Riefenstahl scripted, directed, starred in, and edited. She began developing the script in 1934, and shot the movie between 1940 and 1944. The film, however, was not completed by the end of World War II and eventually was finalized and released on February 11, 1954. The film was set in Spain, and so Riefenstahl needed people who looked of Spanish decent to play extras in the film. She cast a group of gypsies that were being held in a camp. These Gypsies were destined for Auschwitz, and many that appeared in the film were later murdered in concentration camps. Riefenstahl’s decision to use these extras formulates a debate. It again links back to the thesis and the points of views which arise from it. One perspective is in support of the thesis and is that Riefenstahl used the Gypsies inhumanly or immorally as she knew of their destiny, but used them anyway to create some sort of realism or authenticity to her film. Steven Bach is in support of this perspective and points out in his feature document ‘The puzzle of Leni Riefenstahl’, that Riefenstahl had publicly claimed to have seen ‘all the Gypsies who worked on Tiefland after the war. Nothing happened to a single one of them’. However, this is not true. In reality, of 48 Gypsies who can be documented, 20 died in Nazi concentration camps, most of them in Auschwitz to which they were transported almost directly from the film set. The other perspective objects to the thesis and is that Riefenstahl had no choice in using the Gypsies as extras and the decision to use them was that of the SS and was out of her control. It also says that...
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