Monday, November 12, 2007

Politics and art - a dilemma?

Some have called it one of the great documentaries to come out of the 20th century - a few have claimed it to be the most important; no matter what opinions abound because of it, this film perhaps should be a subject of interest to us all.
In one of my blogs, I mentioned the relationship between Adolf Hitler and his interest in the arts. Another combine of importance is, in my view, that of Leni Riefenstahl and her major work,
"Triumph of the Will".
This film, totally centered around the tyrant Hitler and the meaning of his existence through Riefenstahl's eyes, remains, even after seventy years, a work of power and imagery, however troubling it may be.
Some of her techniques were models in thought, if not action, by such giants in film as Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang. It is not merely a propagandistic vehicle glorifying the code of racial supremacy engendered by the Nazis; it is also a work by an artist, highly gifted in dance and acting as well.
And therein lies the dilemma - was she a Nazi, or was she simply an artist by way of that elemental urge to create, no matter the consequence?
Riefenstahl was the object, for many years, of investigation concerning her place in political history, but was never punished by the world's judicial systems, except for a very short period in confinement directly after the war. She insisted until her death at the age of 100, just a few years ago, that her role was that of an artist, and no more.
But if one views this masterpiece, one will probably experience a feeling of doubt, or at least a form of ambivalence , and it probably, as an issue, will never come to rest.
By the way, Riefenstahl produced a film of the 1936 Olympics, which is considered a masterpiece by critics worldwide.

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