Sep 9th, 2003

Triumph of the Will

Yeah. So. Leni Riefenstahl has died at the age of 101. It's with mixed emotions that I note her passing. As a Jew, and one who lost family members in the Holocaust, it is hard to reconcile her willing role in the propaganda machine with the absolute beauty and magnificence of the work itself. But as a student of film, there is no question but that she deserves my respect and admiration. Her work was seminal. Singular.

But, and it is a huge fucking but, the subject matter of that work is unconscionable. She did the work willingly. She volunteered for the job of film maker to the Fuehrer. She did not just follow orders. She made the orders. She gave a face -- a glamorous, Hollywood face -- to that which should have been painted as evil.

From the AP story of her death comes this quote:

Germany's Culture Minister Christina Weiss said Riefenstahl's life tragically demonstrated that "art is never unpolitical, and that form and content cannot be separated from one another."

That will be Leni's epitaph. But her legacy will be seen in the flickering shadows of film forever.