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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Leni's 100th gets cool press
Leni Riefenstahl poses next to a poster for her film
At 100 Leni Riefenstahl continues to cause controversy

The German language press is certainly not throwing a party on the occasion of Leni Riefenstahl's 100th birthday.

Instead, both heavyweight broadsheets and tabloids alike pour cold water on the life and works of the director, best known for her films produced in the Hitler era.


Even on her 100th birthday, she is not going to be paid the homage she has been waiting for for so long

Joachim Guentner in Neue Zuercher Zeitung

An article by Andreas Platthaus in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. says Ms Riefenstahl's personality is marked by an icy coldness. "We should view this 100-year-old woman as a deeply unhappy person," he says.

And it was precisely Hitler's "ice-cold stillness, the art of living and dying as an unfeeling man that fascinated Ms Riefenstahl," he says.

Joachim Guentner writing in Neue Zuercher Zeitung says that "while Riefenstahl is no longer ostracised, nevertheless, even on her 100th birthday, she is not going to be paid the homage she has been waiting for for so long".

"Her past still casts long shadows over her - shadows that don't look like fading," he says.


Riefenstahl was a child of the new age of cinema... wrapped in a virtual world, with which reality could not hope to compete.

Claudia Lenssen in Die Tageszeitung

An article by Georg Seesslen in Die Tageszeitung expresses disdain for Ms Riefenstahl and all the media hype surrounding her.

"Leni Riefenstahl," Seesslen says, is "a self-made German myth, who has had life breathed into her again by the media."

And he describes Ms Riefenstahl's whole outlook on life as being "in essence inhuman, callous... heartless... and fascist".

Fascination

On a slightly more positive note, Claudia Lenssen also writing in Die Tageszeitung says Ms Riefenstahl still fascinates people today because she represents a story of emancipation - even though this may be one that is "as unpleasant as it is extravagant and inconsiderate".

Leni Riefenstahl directing the film
Leni Riefenstahl on the set of "Triumph of Will"

She was "a child of the new age of cinema," Lenssen says, "wrapped in a virtual world, with which reality could not hope to compete".

Fritz Goettler writing in Sueddeutsche Zeitung speaks of the "Riefenstahl scandal" which he says still lies heavy on everyone.

And he touches on the art versus politics debate that has surrounded Ms Riefenstahl's work: "People say this is fascist art, as if fascist were a characteristic one can ascribe to objects, rather than it describing a political leaning," he says.

"Happy 100th Birthday!" Bild's Franz Josef Wagner wishes Ms Riefenstahl.


Birthday girl, something went wrong with your genetic makeup

Franz Josef Wagner in Bild
But, he continues, "One day you are going to be celebrating your birthday either in heaven or in hell."

"In hell," he says, "you'll see Hitler and Goebbels again, and in heaven, Van Gogh, Einstein and Da Vinci."

"Everyone," he points out, "is born with a conscience."

"Birthday girl, something went wrong with your genetic makeup," he goes on. "Maybe that's the reason not all Germans hit out at you, our greatest living artist. But happy birthday to you all the same, you lady of two masks."

And Berliner Zeitung is highly critical of Ms Riefenstahl's new film released to mark the occasion - her first in years.

The paper describes the documentary about diving in the Indian Ocean, as "trivial".

"It is a shame," it says, "that the millions of Jews and Romanies deported and murdered by Hitler weren't fish."

"Had they been fish," the paper points out, "colourful fish threatened with extinction, then Leni Riefenstahl might have made a film about them."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

16 Aug 02 | Newsmakers
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