Leni is an excellent book that reveals just how carefully she edited her life and work by denying facts despite eyewitnesses and paper trails left by the Nazis. Steven Bach has sifted through the veils of history and cover-ups to clarify what Leni never would.
He renders an impartial account of events without vilifying Leni as many have done, and without sanitizing her work as she did until her peaceful death. The readers are left to come to their own conclusions. The final portrait that emerges reminds one of The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.
One wonders if that is why she kept the exquisite portrait of herself as Junta in the Blue Light until her death, and if the lovely picture finally revealed after her death what she would not in life. Leni does emerge as a talented innovator long denied her due acknowledgement of brilliance because of the hovering image of Hitler over her work.
She participated, albeit tangentially, in the rise of Nazism, but was also a woman who made films that are considered immortal works of art. A contemporary argument for giving artists respect despite their personal shortcomings is Roman Polanski who, accused of statutory rape, left the country to keep from going to jail. Yet the superior movie The Pianist won him an Oscar in 2003. An interesting side note is that his movie was based on a Polish-Jewish musician as well as his mother who died in a concentration camp.
In a reader-friendly style, Bach helps us to understand that the taint that stained Riefenstahlís work does not diminish it. She must be recognized as an artist who blazed new trails for filmmakers and later for photographers. While I cannot watch Triumph of the Will without being both impressed and repulsed simultaneously, I feel the same way about the entire story of Leniís career. This is because of the subject matter and most definitely not the writerís fault. In fact, that is what makes the book so powerful and brilliant.
Recommended for fans of history, film, photography or feminism.