Leni Riefenstahl: Nazi Sympathizer or Artist?
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Abstract Leni Riefenstahl is the most renowned filmmaker from Germany during the time of the Third Reich. Her commissions to make propaganda films and involvement with the Nazi party often force scholars to interrogate her ethics. The question of whether, Riefenstahl should be considered a Nazi sympathizer or a talented artist, who was simply a victim of living in the wrong place at the wrong time, is a difficult one to answer. Leni Riefenstahl depicts herself as a German artist forced into the creation of films throughout her memoir and in numerous interviews. Despite Riefenstahl's denial of her willingness to become involved in the Nazi party, other evidence from the 1930s and early 1940s alludes to the fact that Riefenstahl was a part of it due to her own desire to become famous and powerful. This paper will take two different approaches to suggest that Riefenstahl is in fact guilty of being a Nazi sympathizer as well as prove that her films are indeed propaganda. Through the use of Riefenstahl's own words she writes in her memoir and other evidence said by scholars about this time, it can be concluded that she is making an attempt to cover up any truth left behind from her days as a filmmaker for Hitler. It can also be observed that Riefenstahl's use of fascist aesthetics in her films can also serve as evidence of her loyalty to the National Socialist party as well as her desire to obtain more followers for Hitler. Through the use of formal analysis of fascist aesthetics found in three of her films, The Holy Mountain, The Blue Light, and The Triumph of the Will, this paper will come to the conclusion that Riefenstahl was not only an artist but a sympathizer of the Nazi party.