One other point.
I believe that the rise of fascism, was in part due to a response to the bogeyman of the day, namely communism.
What the German population may have seen in all those uniforms and parades etc was possibly a response to the imagined or real threat that communism presented.
One of the reasons that many prominent Americans were on board with the early Hitler machine was the fear that communism/socialism was building up steam here in America and in Europe.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
The nice bits.
Originally Posted by Stargazer
...but what about the portrayal of Hitler as a messiah? His celestial origin? The discussion of the Reichsmordwoche (Night of the Long Knives) - but maybe the murder of his political rivals was OK because it was 'of its time', as was the threat to those who dissented in the future? (one of the messages in the film) Or maybe Riefenstahl was so politically naive that she thought that murder was an acceptable part of politics.*
*Afterthought - well, maybe not so naive to think that, and maybe murder is still 'of its time' in politics.
Last edited by Helen B; 09-10-2006 at 01:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Yes, I can see that all that is offensive. It also sounds like it could be pretty silly. I can't say without seeing it, obviously what's often shown has been 'selective' possibly to put it mildly.
One thing I do think is that it's always good to have rational discussions, and closing down discussion doesn't often achieve very much. Even if she did make such a film, it's still unclear to me how far she was fully committed to the ideas portrayed within it. Even if her work is in the end dreadful and beyond the pale I think it's good to analyse what has made it so, if only so we can recognise such tendencies in the future. Don't we have to look at the demons to understand them, and in particular understand their terrible power?
Anyway, the great thing about discussions is I'm now keen to go and find out more for myself......
That's pretty much what I've been trying to say, though it may not have come across very well.
Originally Posted by Stargazer
I would like to add a belated comment:
1) What do I think of the picture of Jesse Owens? Good but not exceptional. As a sports photographer. Riefenstahl was able to recognize that taking a close-up of an athlete's face as he stood on the starting block a split second before the start of a race was likely to yield a good picture. She may well have shot large numbers of the competitors at the 1936 Olympics in this way. Only Owens' dramatic performance lent special signficance to this picture after the fact.
2) What do I think of Leni Riefenstahl? An obviously talented stills photographer and cinematographer who was more than willing to ignore whatever moral principles she did or did not possess in the interests of furthering her career. Some APUGers will know that I am descended from German Jews on my mother's side - my (now separated) wife of 25 years is German and I have spoken to many former Nazis over the years. I avoid moral posturing, I am more interested in eyewitness acccounts of life during the Third Reich BUT one thing I cannot stand is Nazis in denial, who claim either that no crimes took place of that they know nothing of them - there were plenty of indications even by 1936 (Hitler's rise to power supported by the thugs of the SA, his subsequent murder of many of these, his support for Franco in the Spanish Civil War, his assumption of the role of dictator and dissolution of parliament) of what kind of person Hitler was, and I feel that LR was in denial all her life.
In conclusion, I believe that "Triumph of the Will" is studied in film schools by those with ambitions to direct pop videos and commercials!
Last edited by David H. Bebbington; 10-08-2006 at 06:12 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: 2 spelling errors
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Good morning David.
I am quite surprised to see this thread come to life again. Thanks for your comment and sincerely held thoughts and feelings on the picture and its author. When I originally posted it, I knew there would be lively debate !!! I agree that the significance of it is mostly after the fact, and the reason for posting was that the use of shadow in its composition picked out Owen,s eye in a sculptural way. His determination seems to be shining out of the darkness surrounding the event.....
There were plent of indications by 1923 (the Beer Hall Putsch). By 1936 there were copies of Mein Kampf on just about every coffee table in the country. Things were way past the indication stage in 1936.
Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
Just some thoughts as the centenial of Hannah Arendt's birth approaches. We would do well to consider the ease with which a well-educated, democratic society slipped into totalitarianism. Maybe we expect too much of artist/photographers for they/we are merely a part of the culture we live in. The banality of evil can include those who work for the State - a State that commits crimes against humanity. Judgements are easy for the victors to make. There are few photographer/heroes, for most photographers wish to merely pursue their craft. Should we disparage the work of Josef Sudek because he continued as a photographer under both Nazism & Communism?
I think her portrait of Jess Owens is superb especially in comparison to sports photography of that time period.
Last edited by doughowk; 10-09-2006 at 08:32 AM. Click to view previous post history.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
What you say is correct, but you have misunderstood my use of the word "indication" (as a synonym for "evidence"). By 1936, the gloves were certainly off, even at the Olympic Games itself athletes of various nations were roughed up by the SS for refusing to give the Hitler salute - which made Owen's performance even more of a poke in the eye for Hitler!
Originally Posted by c6h6o3
...or the recently departed Elisabeth Schwarzkopf whose career seemed to have been unaffected after WW2? Is it because that these people's art never had political colours? At least not in the obvious sense that is readily seen in L. Riefenstahl's work? How political can one be when one conducts a Beethoven symphony (the only thing which is "odd" about Karajan's work is that he played them slower), or plays a Strauss waltz, or sings Donna Anna in a Mozart opera? Do they sound "Nazi" because at one time of their lives they made music with Hitler?
Originally Posted by c6h6o3
Try reading Leni Riefenstahl's biography (a rather thick book) and see its film version. The film's title escapes me now, but it was something like "The Wonderful and Terrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl" - I'm sure I got the title wrong, but terrible was in its title. Both materials give an insight to who Ms Riefenstahl was.