"Leni Riefenstahl simply will not go away:" an analysis of the media discourses about Hitler's filmmaker
thesisposted on 2021-05-23, 11:07 authored by Kirsteen Henderson
Leni Riefenstahl will forever be connected to the political ideology of fascism and the images of Adolf Hitler and male strength and beauty she brought to the screen in Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938), the contested masterpieces of her filmmaking career under the Third Reich. Now 100 years old and releasing her first film in almost half a century, she has remained a ubiquitous media presence for most of her life. In the 1 970s, an article in Newsweek began: "Leni Riefenstahl simply will not go away" and her media presence has only increased since that time ("Leni's triumph of the will" 11/29/76). More recently, in the past decade, Vanity Fair featured an interview with Riefenstahl and published Helmut Newton's photographs of her; lengthy reviews of her memoirs appeared in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, and the Times of London; Ray Muller's documentary, The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl appeared at film festivals in New York and Washington, D.C.; and Jodie Foster's decision to make a film based on Riefenstahl's life was announced on CNN. This media attention prompted Eric Rentschler to describe Riefenstahl as "the Third Reich's most visible living celebrity and a constant object oflurid speculation, be it as 'Hitler's girlfriend,' a 'Nazi pin-up girl,' or a 'fallen goddess.' The spectacle of Riefenstahl has always made for good press" (1996: 27-8). This paper examines the media's enduring fascination with Riefenstahl by analyzing articles devoted to the filmmaker's life and work that have appeared in Western newspapers, popular journals and on the Internet over the course of the past three decades.