Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl (, – , ) was a dancer, , and widely noted for her and advances in film technique. Her most famous works are for the German . Rejected by the film industry after , she later pursued still and continued to make films of marine life.
Dancer and actor
Born in , Riefenstahl began her career as a self-styled and well-known . In a 2002 interview, she said dancing was what made her truly happy. After injuring a knee, she attended a film about mountains and became fascinated with the possibilities of the medium. She went to the for about a year and when she returned, confidentially approached , the director of the film she'd seen earlier, asking for a role in his next project. Riefenstahl went on to star in a number of Fanck's , presenting herself as an athletic and adventurous young woman with suggestive appeal. Riefenstahl's career as an actor in was prolific, and she became highly regarded by directors and publicly popular with German film-goers. When presented with the opportunity to direct in 1932, she took it. Her main interest at first was in fictional films. Her last acting role before moving to directing was in the 1933 film (U.S. title SOS Iceberg); this film was released on in the in November 2005.
Riefenstahl influenced how later movies were made with her innovative filming techniques (here shown during the production of )
She heard speak at a rally in 1932 and was mesmerized by his powers as a public speaker. Upon meeting Riefenstahl, Hitler, himself an artist, saw the chance to hire a visionary who could create the image of a strong, proud Germany radiating beauty, power, strength, and defiance, an image he could sell to the world. During a personal meeting he asked Riefenstahl to make a documentary and, in 1933, she directed the (Victory of Faith), an hour-long feature about the Nazi party rally at Nuremberg in 1933 (released on DVD in 2003). Reports vary as to whether she ever had a close relationship with Hitler but, impressed with her work, he then asked her to film the upcoming 1934 Party rally in Nuremberg. After initially turning down the project because she did not want to make "a prescribed film", Riefenstahl began making another film titled Tiefland. She hired to direct it in her place. When she fell ill, Tiefland was cancelled. Upon her recovery, she reviewed Ruttmann's initial footage and found it to be terrible. She eventually relented to Hitler's pressure, and resumed her role as director of the film. She was given unlimited resources, camera crews, budget, complete artistic control and final cut of the film. was a documentary glorifying Hitler and widely regarded as one of the most effective pieces of ever produced. It is generally regarded as a masterful, epic, innovative work of documentary filmmaking. Because it was commissioned by the Nazi party and used as propaganda, however, critics have said it is nearly impossible to separate the subject from the artist behind it. Triumph of the Will was a rousing success in , but widely banned in America.
Triumph of the Will won many international awards as a ground-breaking example of filmmaking. She went on to make a film about the German , released in 1935 as (Day of Freedom).
In 1936 Riefenstahl qualified as an athlete to represent Germany in for the but decided to film the event instead. This material became , a film widely noted for its technical and aesthetic achievements. She was the first to put a camera on rails, a technique which is commonly called a tracking shot, used to film the crowds in the stadium as well as the movement of the runners in track and field events. Riefenstahl's achievements in the making of Olympia have proved to be a major influence in modern sports photography. Still today her influence is seen in government "photo ops", major movies, television, and advertisement.