Thursday, August 08, 2002

"Unbeknownst to Riefenstahl, she had acquired a very special fan. Enchanted by her dance by the sea in The Sacred Mountain, the avid cinephile Adolf Hitler brushed aside the objections of his jealous propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, and commissioned the 32-year-old actress to make a film record of the annual Nazi party congress at Nuremberg. The documentary she delivered was like nothing seen before, or since. Repellent and riveting, a study in pagan kitsch and industrial-strength totalitarianism, Triumph of the Will bequeathed the iconic images of Nazi Germany: Hitler, soaring above the medieval city and swooping down from the heavens like an eagle, haloed by sunlight as adoring crowds bathe in his divine aura; solemn brownshirts marching in geometric precision; montages of virile German youth in roughneck, homoerotic play; and everywhere, rolling seas of swirling banners and fluttering flags emblazoned with the talismanic swastika. "It reflects the truth that was then, in 1934, history," Riefenstahl later claimed. "It is therefore a documentary, not a propaganda film." [...]

"Far and away the most devastating critique of Riefenstahl's oeuvre -- and to the director the most infuriating -- was launched by the critic Susan Sontag in her oft-cited essay "Fascinating Fascism," originally published in The New York Times Book Review in 1975. Looking over Riefenstahl's photography book The Last of the Nuba (1973), Sontag interpreted the color portraits of sinewy Sudanese tribesmen as of a piece with her earlier work, a continuum of a fascist aesthetic built on the cult of the body beautiful. "Riefenstahl seems hardly to have modified the ideas of her Nazi films," Sontag observed. "Although the Nuba are black, not Aryan, Riefenstahl's portrait of them evokes some of the larger themes of Nazi ideology: the contrast between the clean and the impure, the incorruptible and the defiled, the physical and the mental, the joyful and the critical." Sontag added, "To cast Riefenstahl in the role of the individualist-artist, defying philistine bureaucrats and censorship by the patron state ... should seem like nonsense to anyone who has seen Triumph of the Will." [...]

"A long-rumored Hollywood biopic is perennially in development, with Madonna and Jodie Foster reportedly interested in the plum role. "

from: Leni Riefenstahl: Ethics of an Auteur by Thomas Doherty, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, issue of August 9, 2002.

". . . yes, bitch--yes, little bitch--poor helpless bitch you're coming can't stop yourself now I'll whip you again whip till you bleed. . . . Thus Pokler's whole front surface, eyes to knees: flooded with tonight's image of the delicious victim bound on her dungeon rack, filling the movie screen--close-ups of her twisting face, niles under the silk grown amazingly erect, making lies of her announcements of pain--bitch! she loves it . . . and Leni no longer solemn wife, embittered source of strength, but Margherita Erdmann underneath him" (Gravity's Rainbow, 397)