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Book Reviews

Leni Riefenstahl-Five Lives
Edited by Angelika Taschen
Taschen, $40.00

(ISBN 3-8228-6216-9)

By Robert Hirsch
From Vol. 2 No. 5

While most of Germanyís film community had to flee when Hitler was elected chancellor in 1933, Leni Riefenstahl remained and was personally given carte blanche by Hitler to make a film of the 1934 Nuremberg Party Convention. The result was her brilliant and inflammatory propaganda film, Triumph of the Will (1935), banned by the Allies even after the end of World War II.

Leni Riefenstahl-Five Lives edited by Angelika Taschen (Taschen $40) does not offer a satisfactory explanation as to why Riefenstahl beautified the ideals of Hitlerís Third Reich. She claims Hitler made her do it while glossing over the fan letter she wrote to Hitler in 1932. This book misses an opportunity to critically examine the work of this nearly 100 year old sorceress who became a celebrity by using her artistic abilities in the service of evil. Self-aggrandizing books like this one perpetuate the totalitarian strategy of erasing history that does not serve its needs.

Riefenstahl's self-serving biography and self-conscious images, including her exotic representations of the Nuba people in the Sudan, do not addressed the underpinning of her work that a society founded on lies cannot mature and act responsibly. Such a culture becomes mired in adolescence and requires a leader and followers, is aggressive and quick to take offense, simultaneously lying and trusting, concerned only with its immediate needs, and blaming its deeds on others. RH