Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993) - Rotten Tomatoes

Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993)

Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl Photos

Movie Info

In the 1930s, Leni Riefenstahl was arguably the most important and accomplished female filmmaker of her generation; however, since her primary sponsor was Adolf Hitler, and her best-known work was a hagiographic documentary on the 1934 Nazi Party congress entitled Triumph of the Will, a long and unending debate has raged whether Riefenstahl was a fascist propagandist or a talented artist whose crime was merely doing a job too well. Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl is an exhaustive two-part look at Riefenstahl's life and work, exploring her early careers as a dancer and actress, reconstructing the making of Triumph of the Will and Olympia (an elaborate and visually striking record of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games), and her later success as a still photographer, cultural anthropologist, and underwater filmmaker. While the film was made with Riefenstahl's participation, director Ray Muller does not shrink from exploring both sides of the issues of her work with the Nazi regime (she claims to have never been a member of the party and to have been unaware of the genocide of Jews and other "undesirables," while Muller presents evidence that strongly suggests the contrary) even as it celebrates her accomplishments and fierce determination (as a girl she could climb mountains in her bare feet, and in her nineties she was still an avid scuba diver). Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl was released in the United States under the title The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl.


Critic Reviews for Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (4)

This is more often self-portrait than portrait; like Hitler in Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, she's presented as a fully formed deity without family background or ideology save a reverence for beauty and strength.

Full Review… | March 14, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Sometimes clunky but consistently fascinating.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Overly long, but fascinating.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

This movie is fascinating in so many different ways: As the story of an extraordinary life, as the reconstruction of the career of one of the greatest of film artists, as the record of an ideological debate, as a portrait of an amazing old woman.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

A riveting docu about the controversial filmmaker who made some great propaganda art for Hitler

Full Review… | July 25, 2011

Overlong examination of the life of an enigmatic, willful, disengenuous, fascinating, influential and enormously gifted filmmaker.

Full Review… | March 19, 2009
Laramie Movie Scope

Audience Reviews for Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl


Overlong but fascinating documentary about this remarkable filmmaker who mastered her techniques better than many directors, yet not only was limited as an artist (in terms of ideals) but also spent her life denying her guilt for collaborating with a genocidal regime.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

If you've never seen this do yourself a favor and take a "PBS moment" and explore the power of the camera and it's application in manipulating human emotions. Especailly during an election season. Art meets politics and the discussions of Leni's degrees of involvement are not answered with this film, but she poses and interesting question at one point should an artist or thier work be held accountable for it's poilitcal/ cultural impact? Do they have a responcibility to society? While the answer might depend upon circumstances I think Japanese filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi who in the same era being forced by the military to make propoganda entertainment films delivered some of the most "bland" films ever made as an act of passive resistence. Not allowing his art to be used by others for ill purposes. The 47 Ronin is one of the most static films ever made.

Bobby Diablo
Bobby Diablo

The juxtaposition of Riefenstahl's undeniable brilliance as an artist with the inescapable fact of her ideological rationalization. My impulse to somehow give her the benefit of the doubt is shot down by the occasional absurdities in her excuses for herself. Not entirely fairly, Leni Riefenstahl has become my mind's poster child for her generation of Germans.

Derek  Wood
Derek Wood

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