© Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin, 1925, Still from “Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit”
This photograph is part of the book “Licht und Schatten - Die großen Stumm- und Tonfilme der Weimarer Republik” recently published by Schirmer-Mosel.
About the film: The action of “Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit” ("Ways to strength and beauty" ) was an idealized, somewhat naive approximation to the health and beauty in conformity with nature. The film offered a contrast to the rather hopeless living in the city of Berlin and other large cities of Germany during the twenties and became an immediate success quite from the beginning. Finally it became the most popular and most important German “Kulturfilm” of this period. The film is best known as the first film to feature Leni Riefenstahl. (+)
Leni Riefenstahl (not in above picture) began her public life as an “interpretive” dancer in the Modernist vein and then did a turn (which she later denied) dancing semi-nude in the film "Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit."
She achieved eminence first as a star, then as a director, of “mountain films” - a popular, peculiarly Germanic genre in which wild, primitive people dare to scale beautiful yet menacing Alpine peaks, achieving death and transfiguration at the end of their exertions. At the time, most people viewed these movies as escapist, though Siegfried Kracauer (a mere critic at the time, not yet the eminent historian of German film he would become) saw in these films something "symptomatic of an antirationalism on which the Nazis could capitalize."
There was perhaps more to it than that. As Susan Sontag wrote in her seminal essay “Fascinating Fascism,” the mountain films offered "a visually irresistible metaphor for unlimited aspiration toward the high mystic goal, both beautiful and terrifying, which was later to become concrete in Fuehrer-worship."
The would-be Fuehrer saw this. And Riefenstahl, his would-be acolyte, was paying attention too. She read “Mein Kampf” and, typically, pressed that noxious rant upon a Jewish lover, saying, "Harry, you must read this book. This is the coming man." (read more)
You can watch the whole film here:
Find more posts on Leni Riefenstahl here.
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