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June 1994


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Klaus Eder <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 22 Jun 1994 03:19:57 +0200
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Dear John,
thanks for your message. I am very concerned to say that the normal
German reaction on Leni Riefenstahl does not differ very much from
the American point of view. The documentary on her had also in Ger-
many quite a lot of success. Only, her films are not shown very often,
and as far as I can see there was until now no complete retrospective.
The Allied Forces had immediately after the war forbidden her films,
the prints were not available. A retrospective, today in Germany, would
indeed be a very delicate and difficult matter - regarding the right
movement, the come-back of a kind of neo-fashist movement, the actions
against foreign workers and all that.
You might be surprised, but cinema is not taught in schools. It is
even not taught in universities, at least not as an autonomous science
(yes, in the frame of literature, "Thomas Mann and cinema", "Shakespeare
and film" and so on). And the youngsters in our film schools unfortunately
are not interested in theory. The result: a lot of people might know about
a filmmaker called Leni Riefenstahl -- but only very few do know her work.
The main point is, as you say, a different reception. People are not used
any more to think about politics when they see a movie. You can explain
the background, you can give them a clear and convincing ideological ana-
lysis, and their answer is "Yes, but I liked the film". [I am speaking
about a tendency. There are of course also exceptions.] I do not like
this kind of argumentation. It sounds like "Hitler was bad, BUT he made
the highways..."
I think the dominance of American soaps in television, accompanied by the
same kind of soaps made in Germany, the dominance of some stupid kind of
shows and so on are a bitter sign of a de-politisation of public life. And
the result of this de-politisation is that films like the Riefenstahl ones
are seen as a kind of beautiful and a little bit exotic entertainment.
I wouldn't dare to show her films today in a normal cinema. I am afraid
a lot of people would enjoy them.
I am living in Munich. Two blocks away is an Italian restaurant where some
filmmakers use to go. It is in a house with two doors. One leads to the
restaurant. The other one leads to some apartments. In one of these
apartments Leni Riefenstahl used to live for years.
I always refused to meet her.
Thanks again for your message.
All the best
--- Klaus
Klaus Eder Munich
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