|Leni Riefenstahl has written many interesting outlines, which
could partly not have been realized due to the war, and other
difficulties she mentions in her memoirs. Among those are even
projects which would have been pioneering in film art. The film
version of »Penthesilea« after Heinrich von Kleist for example,
or »Die roten Teufel« and »Friedrich und Voltaire« where Jean
Cocteau wanted to play the parts of Friedrich and Voltaire, but
also the films about »Van Gogh«, »Die schwarze Fracht« a film
about modern slave trade,»Der Tanz mit dem Tod« or »Drei Sterne
am Mantel der Madonna« written upon request of Anna Magnani, had
been unusual subjects.
As early as in 1926 two film subjects Leni Riefenstahl had been
especially enthusiastic about could not be realized although the
Ufa had already made good progress with the preparations for both
films. In both scripts, Dr. Fanck had created fascinating parts
for his principal actress. The Ufa stopped its preparations because
of a quarrel between Luis Trenker and Dr. Frank, and commissioned
Dr. Frank instead of these two very expensive films to present
new suggestions for films, which should cost half as much. Leni
Riefenstahl had been desperate, because, as she said even after
years, these were the nicest film subjects Dr. Fanck had ever
written. The titles were »Wintermärchen« and »Die schwarze Katze«.
The content of the »Wintermärchen«: An orphaned brother and sister
living in the town inherit from their grandmother a small hut
in the mountains. During a snowstorm the small four years, old
boy is lost, and completely exhausted he falls asleep under a
fir tree. While his seven years old sister is searching for him
despairingly, the child has a fantastic dream offering the director
Dr. Fanck the opportunity to wallow in unique pictures.
Especially the contrast had been visually attractive in this subject,
for the plot took place in the sombreness of the Ruhr area and
in the sunlight of the glittering ice and snow scenery of the
Sudeten Mountains. An enchanting plot - half reality and half
a fairy tale.
Die schwarze Katze: Dr. Arnold Fanck's best script. A war film in the Dolomites after
an experience of our cameraman Hans Schneeberger. The big explosion
on the Casteletto is the film's main subject. During the world
war, Schneeberger as a lieutenant together with 60 men kept the
position until the last moment, then it was blown up and all of
them were buried. He could be rescued out of the ruins together
with eight men only. The mountain guide's daughter is »Die schwarze
Katze« in this film, called so because of her bold climbing skills.
It was a wonderful part for Leni Riefenstahl. Again, this film
project failed due to Luis Trenker. He made a tomcat out of the
she-cat, took possession of Dr. Fanck's script, and to Dr. Fanck's
and the Ufa's dismays he himself started to make the film - an
unbelievable plagiarism. Since Dr. Fanck did not want to take
the burden of a lawsuit, this bad matter had been settled out
of court. Trenker called his film »Berge in Flammen«. It was his
first film and became very successful. Dr. Fanck and Trenker parted
from now on.
However, not only Dr. Fanck had been unlucky at that time, Leni
Riefenstahl was it too. It had been her desire since quite a long
time to be able to work under the direction of a very good movie
director. Well, for Dr. Fanck the principal actors had been the
mountains. Now she got this chance for the first time. The Ufa
engaged her; it had been a top part for an actress; »Mademoiselle
Docteur«, the authentic story of a female spy who had been working
for the German defence during World War I. Leni Riefenstahl was
overjoyed. Frank Wysbar had been signed on as the director, one
of her favourite directors at that time, and Gerhard Menzel as
the scriptwriter. However, the luck did not last for long. A messenger
delivered to her the bad news that unfortunately the Ufa will
not make this film, for the Wehrmacht ministry would grant no
more permissions for spy films giving the reason that a spy film
would allow too many insights into this field. Instead of having
the chance to play the »Mademoiselle Docteur« Leni Riefenstahl
deeply despaired had to produce for Hitler the Reich Party Congress
film »Sieg des Glaubens« followed by »Triumph des Willens«. Through
these commissioned films she was forced to dispense with her work
as an actress for many years.
As late as in 1938 Leni Riefenstahl believed that after years
of hard work, she had just finished her films about the Olympic
games, a wish could come true, that she would be able to create
a great part as a movie actress after all.
It was »Penthesilea« the last Queen of the Amazons brilliantly
described by Heinrich von Kleist. Her films had been so successful
that she was able to produce this gigantic piece of film herself.
Marshal Balbo the Italian governor of Libya provided to her 1,000
white Arabian stallions. The battle scenes should have been shot
in the Libyan desert and in the sand dunes on the island of Sylt.
In the spring of 1939, Leni Riefenstahl let a large number of
young sportswomen be trained as Amazons. She herself learned to
ride a horse without a saddle too. The battle of the genders had
not been planned as a filmed theatre play, to be more precise
von Kleist's poetry language should have formed a whole together
with stylised picture visions. She as the director prepared the
shootings, engaged the actors and the staff, selected Lipizzaner
and Great Danes for the film. However, the beginning of the war
on September 1st 1939 destroyed this unique film project too.
Later not realised film projects:
Die roten Teufel
This skiing film is varying the Penthesilea theme as a comedy
- the battle of the genders on skis. The colours red, blue and
yellow were planned to have a dramaturgic function - a new creation
on film. The world's best male and female skiers had been engaged
for this film as well as Vittorio de Sica and Brigitte Bardot
too yet still unknown at that time. The Herzog film hire company
had taken over the financing. However, a few days before the start
of the shootings so serious libels and attacks had been published
in the papers that the Herzog film hire company was forced to
cease the work.
The following projects too could not be realised.
Vincent van Gogh
A film about the artist's passion, about genius and insanity.
It was planned to shoot the realistic plot in black and white,
in colour only those shots, which show how, von Gogh is painting
and how his paintings are created.
Friedrich der Große und Voltaire
The unusual amicable relationship between the Prussian King and
Voltaire had been the subject. Jean Cocteau planned to play both
parts - a cinematic sensation.
Africa is shown from four different points of view: from the realistic
one of the reporter, from the surrealist-romantic one of the artist,
the adventurous one of the hunter and the ethnological one of
A documentary film about four historic first ascents in four different
countries. Produced after the actual event. In Italy the »Three
battlements«, in Switzerland the »Eiger's north face«, in France
the »Montblanc« and in India the »Mount Everest«.
Sol y Sombra (sun and shade)
A documentary film about Spain's religious, artistic and architectural
The river Nileer
A documentary film about the life and the cultures of the various
primitive peoples living on the banks of the river Nile.
Die Schwarze Fracht
A film about modern slave trade after a book by Otto Meissner
and documents of the Anti-Slavery Society in London.
A scientist is searching for her husband missing in Africa and
gets involved in the modern slave trade.
Alone among the Nuba
A documentary film about the Nuba's life. In the winter of 1964/65
Leni Riefenstahl is shooting the wrestling bouts of the Nuba in
Tadoro, the ritual activities, the dances and the everyday life.
During the processing the new special speed ER material is spoiled.
It was impossible for Leni Riefenstahl to repeat these shots for
civilization had destroyed the old ritual customs and conventions
of the Nuba. She could not finish this film.
Coral reefs - impressions under water
A documentary film about the fascinating world under water. Leni
Riefenstahl had been filming for several years at some of the
world's most beautiful reefs. She says: I do not need a plot,
the pictures shall tell the story. For reasons of health, she
has not been able to finish this film so far.
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Leni Riefenstahl Produktion
Copyright © 2000-2001 All Rights reserved. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.