It Needs To Be Said
I've never had any patience for those who excuse Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's official filmmaker in all but title, on the basis of being a "great artist." In what way? Certainly she's an artist, but if I eat food I don't like, I don't say, "That's not food," I say, "That's bad food." Leni was a bad artist. Certainly her cinematographer was great, but name me one in Germany who wasn't. One can be an artist and create propaganda. And it can be said that such films as Triumph of the Will are what amounts to official portraits with the element of time added, and so would this mean that a painter who did a portrait of a Borgia, or Richard Avedon, who photographed Henry Kissinger(though it's hardly a glamorous photo), are therefore culpable for their subject's crimes?But the sole purpose of her art was this glorification, so as an artist she rates not a whole lot higher than a company bugler. An artist, but a limited and primarily functional one. And leeway in how she did it isn't a guarantor of artistic greatness; most ad campaigns are given a lot of leeway, but that doesn't change that the caveman is trying to sell you insurance. And how would Hitler have known how to tell her to film it anyway? That's what you hire competent people to do, to make the people like you better, so you can concentrate on the important things, such as murdering half of Europe.So I was glad to read this in a review of Steven Bach(author of Final Cut, which you should read)'s new book on Riefenstahl:
Some spectators thought even at the time that her cinematic gift had served to legitimize a murderous ideology, but almost nobody belittled her artistic talent. She was thus able, when the Nazis lost, to invoke the principle that art trumps politics. Photographed too often with her raised hand pointed in Hitler’s direction, quoted too often on the subject of his transformative vision, she was unable to deny that she had held her mentor in high regard, but she never stopped denying until her long-postponed last gasp that she had ever known much about what the Nazis were really up to. She had been too busy being a great artist.
Read the rest here.
Labels: crime, film, Germany, history, politics, propaganda, trump