The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl [DVD] [1993]

The Horrible, Wonderful Life of Leni Riefenstahl is a thorough look at the controversial, yet highly regarded director whose fame arrived just as the Nazi party was making themselves more known to the world. Though a fine documentary, the DVD is slightly less interesting. Presented full-frame, the picture quality is purely based on the source material. The recent interviews are nicely detailed with good color, while clips from the original documentaries and films she directed, such as Triumph of the Will and Olympia, often show real signs of wear. While certainly watchable, and not too distracting, the overall image is nothing to get excited about. Equally, the two-channel surround track is sufficient for a documentary of this type. The sound is centered up front, and while it never takes advantage of the surround speakers, it is clear and understandable. English subtitles, though white, are always easy to read and never blend into the scene. This disc is divided into 23 chapters, but lacks any supplemental materials.
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The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
In the 1930s, Leni Riefenstahl was arguably the most important and accomplished female filmmaker of her generation; however, since her primary sponsor was Adolf Hitler, and her best-known work was a hagiographic documentary on the 1934 Nazi Party congress entitled Triumph of the Will, a long and unending debate has raged whether Riefenstahl was a fascist propagandist or a talented artist whose crime was merely doing a job too well. Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl is an exhaustive two-part look at Riefenstahl's life and work, exploring her early careers as a dancer and actress, reconstructing the making of Triumph of the Will and Olympia (an elaborate and visually striking record of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games), and her later success as a still photographer, cultural anthropologist, and underwater filmmaker. While the film was made with Riefenstahl's participation, director Ray Muller does not shrink from exploring both sides of the issues of her work with the Nazi regime (she claims to have never been a member of the party and to have been unaware of the genocide of Jews and other "undesirables," while Muller presents evidence that strongly suggests the contrary) even as it celebrates her accomplishments and fierce determination (as a girl she could climb mountains in her bare feet, and in her nineties she was still an avid scuba diver). Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl was released in the United States under the title The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Luis Trenker
    Luis Trenker
  • Leni Riefenstahl
    Leni Riefenstahl - Herself
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