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

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

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

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

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.