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Film in the Third Reich: The Power of Images & Illusions


February 5 (Monday) 9 pm

Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens)

Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
Germany 1936, 16mm, b/w, 120 min.
German with English subtitles

Approved by Hitler as the official film record of the sixth Nazi-party Congress held in 1934 at Nuremberg, this infamous film provides a case study of cinema as a means of propaganda that, nonetheless, preserves its integrity as an art form. Defending her role in making this film, the director stated that she "faithfully photographed what existed in reality." Yet Riefenstahl’s camera uncovered the psychological truth of an autocratic society.

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February 6 (Tuesday) 9 pm

The Blue Light (Das blaue Licht)

Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
Germany 1932, 16mm, b/w, 80 min.
With Leni Riefenstahl, Guiseppe Becce, Mathias Wieman
German with English subtitles

After appearing in several films of the "mountain" genre produced during the Weimar era by then popular director Arnold Fanck, Riefenstahl directed her first feature in a similar romantic and pictorialist manner. Shot on location in the Alps, the film emphasizes a Germanic mystical union with nature, a vision which so impressed Hitler that he offered Riefenstahl the opportunity to make films for the Nazi party.

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February 12 (Monday) 7 pm

Olympia Part 1

Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
Germany 1938, 35mm, b/w, 118 min.

Commissioned by Hitler, Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the 1936 Berlin Olympics remains nearly as controversial as her earlier Triumph of the Will. Some characterize the film as a tainted paean to Nazism and to Aryan perfection, citing proof in the form of the beaming Fuhrer’s many on-camera appearances. Others see Riefenstahl as subverting Hitler’s racist credo by means of her splendid footage of America’s black runner Jesse Owens, and defend her obsessive aesthetic commitment to beauty as bearing no relation to Nazi views on race, creed, and religion. Despite these opposing opinions, there is little argument that the most mesmerizing footage ever made of athletes in action abounds in Olympia.


February 12 (Monday) 9 pm

Olympia Part 2

Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
Germany 1938, 35mm, b/w, 107 min.

Part 2 of Olympia continues the focus on the international competition at the summer Olympic games of 1936, held in Berlin. It contains the celebrated diving sequence, in which Riefenstahl’s editing and slow-motion cinematography transform the men’s competition into an ode to flight.

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February 20 (Tuesday) 8:30 pm

The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Die Macht der Bilder)

Directed by Ray Müller
Germany/US 1993, b/w and color, 181 min.
With Leni Riefenstahl, her collaborators and friends

German and English with English subtitles

This award-winning documentary is a biographical account of the woman best known as Hitler’s official filmmaker and more recently as the controversial photographer of the Nuba tribe of East Africa. Confronted with Ray Müller’s questions about her career, Riefenstahl delivers an emotional defense of her relationship with Hitler and other Nazi leaders, splitting hairs over minute details. Analyzing many sequences from her films in a manner that is both passionate and sophisticated, she attempts to vindicate her infamous past.

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February 26 (Monday) 9 pm

The Architecture of Doom

Directed by Peter Cohen
US 1995, 35mm, b/w and color, 119 min.

Peter Cohen’s critically acclaimed documentary explores the inner workings of the Third Reich and illuminates Nazi aesthetics in the visual arts, architecture, and popular culture. Cohen argues that the difficulty in defining Nazism in traditional political terms is due to an overlooked but tremendously powerful motivation beyond the scope of politics: the force of an extreme aesthetics of beauty. Building on this Nazi cult of the beautiful, The Architecture of Doom explores the eccentric cultural ambitions of Hitler’s Third Reich.

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