The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl


The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl Review

An exhaustive portrait of Nazi-era filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (best known for directing what some call the best propaganda film ever, Triumph of the Will), this 3 1/4-hour documentary is as daunting a film as her own 4-hour long Olympia, which chronicled the 1936 Olympic games in Germany.

At the heart of The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl is the question of whether she was a Nazi, as her detractors claim, or whether she was the victim of society -- a naive, young girl who made Triumph on assignment, and simply did a very good job of it. The film does not judge her, and Riefenstahl (90 years old during the time of the production of this movie) is genuine in her protest. But has the passage of 50-plus years simply rewritten history in her mind? You'll have to judge for yourself.

Of special interest is the story of Riefenstahl as filmmaking pioneer. From inventing the underwater movie camera to putting cameramen on roller skates, Leni was as daunting behind the camera as she is before it -- during her interviews, she repeatedly bosses the filmmakers around, calls shots for them, and controls the production. As a result, much of Wonderful, Horrible feels stagey and contrived. Ironic.

Less interesting is the drawn-out biography of her entire life, from dancer to actress to propaganda director to blacklisted artist to Africa documentarian/still photographer to undersea photographer/Greenpeace member. This goes on for far too long and with far too little to say. The meat of the film is in its questions about Riefenstahl's true involvement with the Nazi party. The answers are left as an exercise for the viewer.

Aka Die Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl.

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

Facts and Figures

Run time: 180 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 1st June 1994

Box Office Worldwide: $449.7 thousand

Production compaines: Arte, Channel Four Films, Nomad Films, Omega Film GmbH, Without Walls, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF)

Reviews 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ray Müller

Producer: , , Hans-Jürgen Panitz

Starring: as Herself, as Herself, as Himself, as Himself, Ray Müller as Himself, as Himself, as Himself