Propaganda Wars: Philip Kerr Agrees with Leni Riefenstahl's Low Opinion of Mainstream American Movies

By Kerr, Philip | New Statesman (1996), September 22, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Propaganda Wars: Philip Kerr Agrees with Leni Riefenstahl's Low Opinion of Mainstream American Movies


Kerr, Philip, New Statesman (1996)


Years ago, in the days when Clive James was fronting a programme about cinema on ITV, I used to think of the entrance to my local cinema in much the same way that Lucy thought of the wardrobe door in the children's novel by CS Lewis: as the gateway to a magical world of infinite possibility. These days, however, whenever someone asks me about what's worth seeing at the cinema, I find myself exclaiming, like Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan) in Gigi(1958), "It's a bore, it's a bore, it's a bore." Cinema used to seem much less predictable, much less boring. After all, we had Ken Russell and Stanley Kubrick to liven things up a bit, and before them we had Orson Welles.

And before Welles, well, yes, there was Leni Riefenstahl, to whom I think we owe an enormous debt of gratitude. For without her, no one below the age of 70 would have any idea of how it was that so many Germans were captured by the spell of Nazism. Diana Mitford may have adduced the evidence of Hitler's lovely eyes, and his fascinating conversation, but this merely served to make the old girl sound a couple of "heils" short of the full party rally, and brought us no nearer to a visceral understanding of the magnetic phenomenon that was Nazism than a new novel by Jack Higgins.

To see Riefenstahl's technically brilliant film Triumph of the Will (1934), however, is to gain a real insight into how the likes of Unity and Diana were swept away by the Nietzschean imperatives of Hitler and the Nazis. While I find it impossible to believe that Riefenstahl was not a Nazi, it is only through her films that future generations will be able to appreciate how it was that a civilised, law-abiding people like the Germans were able to entrust the Volksgeist to a bunch of psychopathic gangsters. To that extent, Triumph of the Will--and to a lesser extent Olympische Spiele (1936)--serves as one of the 20th century's most salutary films.

Now that Riefenstahl is dead, it will be interesting to see what will happen to Jodie Foster's plan to direct and star in a biopic of Hitler's favourite movie-maker. Shooting was to have begun on the project last year, but at the last minute Riefenstahl refused to sign a contract, on the grounds that she believed Foster's film would not be faithful to her self-serving memoirs. "I have no intention," she said at the time, "of permitting sensationalist lies and distortions to creep into the film, as is so often the case with Hollywood productions.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Propaganda Wars: Philip Kerr Agrees with Leni Riefenstahl's Low Opinion of Mainstream American Movies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?