Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As Nazi as we want her to be?

Okay. I'm writing some things about my Nazi-lady (I guess I'm a bit possessive). There is a lot of information about Riefenstahl as a person but also her films. If I may I will stay on the topic of her for a second before going into her films. I think her Nazi status is worth looking into. If we are to use her marriage to the Nazi major Peter Jacob, which only lasted for three years, as evidence for her being a Nazi, then what should we read into her second marriage being with a German who was born in 1944? That means a person with only secondary information about what happened in the country at that time. Distancing herself, guilt, or irrelevant? If you read through her bio there are so many things that just baffle you regarding that status and how naive she was in all aspects. Jans mentioned a biographical film called The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. We have it at the library so you can check it out if you would like. I also found a review of that film, which might be of interest.

Moving over to the films I don't know if I need to say this again, but better to be safe than sorry. Her documentaries are some of the most gorgeous pieces of art I have ever seen. The cinematography, editing, sound, et cetera creates a breathtaking whole. I'm posting the actual videos here so you can see the films in parts or entirely.

Triumph des Willens. You should definitely see the entirety of this film as it is such an important piece for western history, but at least the first 15 minutes

Olympia, Part 1 - Fest der Völker. As I said in class, the introductions are always the most extraordinary. So if you are only watching that I would suggest watching till 21:30 on the video posted below. If analyzing this ideologically, we can see blurring of genders, but also a representation of the olympics moving from a less refined culture of darker people to this epitome of civilization and whiteness that is the olympics in Berlin. Look at the runners with the torch all the way up to the fire is lit (which is at the time stated above). This is also the film where Jesse Owens appears.

Olympia, Part 2 - Fest der Schönheit. This is where we find the diving sequence. You can see it in its entirety starting at 1:15:30 with a tiny swimming break in the middle. Look at that camera go in the beginning of that sequence. The scholarly article that Jans has mentioned several times, by Susan Sontag can be found here. See if you agree with the assertions made.

In conclusion: The camera work here in all three of these films is just fantastic, and will capture you if you take the time to screen this (I know I just posted 5.5 hours of video). If you want a shorter piece to watch that is just as breathtaking and gorgeous, you can watch Impressionen unter Wasser. It is in total 45 minutes, but youtube has wonderful 10 min pieces of it, like this one (The camera man is her second husband, and the person with the light is Riefenstahl the senior citizen):


  1. I think you make an interesting point here. Watching these films, I can see that Riefenstahl certainly has an interest in beauty for its own sake. And, I too, wonder what other works of art she might have created had she been thrown into a different set of circumstances.

  2. I think that it can be important to look more into the director's life when evaluating their work. Riefenstahl's personal history and life is so interesting that I definitely think it influences her work. In my opinion, it makes the film more interesting if you know some background information about it, including info about the director. When you know more about their personal life and views and you see hints of it in their work, it makes the film more interesting and then it opens up a larger discussion about the film. It makes the film more enjoyable to debate about and to speculate different reasons why the director did certain things. That is just my two bits about the importance of knowing more about the director.

    However, I do see Jans' point when she used the example about how it's not important to know about an author of a book because I'm share those same views. I don't care to know much about the author's personal life, I just love to read the story and take from it what I chose to. But, I don't feel the same way about movies and I don't know why. It is a strange thing but there is just something different about movies that makes me want to know more information about the history and the making behind it.

    Anyway, take what you will from my comments, I just wanted to put it out there.

  3. I guess this goes along with your post Van, but also with what Jans said in class today about authorship. I happen to see the interest in the directors because they have given us such beautiful pieces like you said about Riefenstahl(I shouldn't reference Winona Ryder she wasn't a Nazi, but her alleged shop lifting was not good for her career either), but other than the minimal interest I have in their life, much like my minimal interest in celebrity gossip I just don't care. Lets be honest, I spent an hour doing the same web connections like that of Jans with directors, but I did it with Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix( oh the fascinating connections between celebrity’s). It was interesting, but it did not change the films that they have directed or acted in. So my point is Why? Why should I care? ( I do not say this out of disrespect you know I love you Van) But really why should I care. Other than to fill a page I would not have put any information about Jennings true love being painting because that doesn't change Listen to Britain. I need some reason to bring the author back from the dead, we killed him awhile ago with the “death of the author” and maybe the pendulum is swinging back to the side of caring about the author, but if it is will some one give me a reason why it should matter to me. If I don't get a logical answer I am just going to assume its much like celebrity gossip fascinating but useless. So I write this post not because I know anything, but because I am questioning everything.

  4. I don't know why Meg or anyone should care about the author, really... Except that for me knowing something about the author helps put a work into a certain context - adding a certain enrichment, which is difficult to describe in any tangible way.

    A point that Van has brought up on several occasions is that "Triumph of the Will" hugely impacted Riefenstahl's life. For me, it's interesting to wonder how Reifenstahl's life affected "Triumph of the Will" because I like to see things come full-circle.

    In the case of Jennings, I'm very interested in the fact that he liked to paint and that he preferred it to making films. Largely because his films were successful as an accident of fate (right place, right time) and his paintings were not. And it's interesting to see that something he didn't entirely care for (his films) became his legacy - while in his mind those films were his "day job." None of this changes the text that are the films - it's just supplementary; but at the same time, had Jennings' interests been different, had he been obsessed with his films as he was with his painting, the films that he produced would have been markedly different. Despite what our opinions are regarding authorship, there is no escaping the fact that a creator is behind each created work. And that had the creator been different, the created would be different. So, it's sometimes interesting to consider the nuances of the creator and how they may have played in to the created. Of course, most film work is collaborative, so there are many variables to consider when working through the "creator calculus" but there is still a calculus.

    In a similar manner, it is also interesting to consider cultural norms, eras, geographical locations, time periods, etc. and how these things "program" people and influence what sorts of creations come into existence. Works are not created in vacuums; there are many connections, factors, and variables that play into what will be created - and it seems useful to critique works from all possible perspectives, using as many tools and frameworks as possible. An "author is dead" perspective will yield different, and useful, interpretations than will a perspective that leans more toward auteurship or historical or phenomenological or etc.

    It's all good...


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