Longtime New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael called Triumph of the Will and Olympia “the two greatest films ever directed by a woman.” Many cinema scholars rank Olympia one of the ten best films ever made. Yet, with the fall of Nazi Germany, Leni Riefenstahl became a pariah, her involvement with the Third Reich clouding all the rest of her long life. Though she claimed to be an artist pure and simple with no interest in politics, she nevertheless created the most powerful Nazi propaganda film ever made. When she came to America in 1938 on a promotion tour, columnist Walter Winchell acidly remarked that she was “pretty as a swastika.” In this class we will view all six of her feature films in their entirety, with time set aside to consider Riefenstahl’s history, her contradictions, and her art. Though 2½ hours are allotted for this course, most sessions will be shorter depending on the length of the film and the extent of class discussion afterward. There will be a break before and after each screening.
Class #1: The Blue Light, 1932, 80 min. (a romance, Riefenstahl stars and directs) Class #2: Victory of Faith, 1933, 62 min. (1933 Nazi party rally film) Class #3: Triumph of the Will, 1935, 110 min. (1934 Nazi party rally film) Class #4: Olympia, Festival of Nations, 1938, 115 min. (1936 Berlin Olympics film, first part) Class #5: Olympia, Festival of Beauty, 1938, 89 min. (1936 Berlin Olympics film, second part) Class #6: Tiefland, 1954, 94 min. (a romance, Riefenstahl stars and directs)
If you would like to view the movies (and the course) on the larger screen of your TV, all you need is an HDMI cable connecting your computer to your TV. These are available inexpensively from Amazon or any electronics store.
Richard Matturro, a native of Rye, New York, holds a doctorate in English with a specialization in Shakespeare and Greek Mythology. After sixteen years at the Albany Times Union, he taught literature at UAlbany for fourteen years. He is the author of numerous newspaper articles and six novels.
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