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A Memoir

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  202 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
One of the 20th century's most remarkable & controversial women, Leni Riefenstahl was an artist of the 1st order. Dancer, actor & photographer, she is best known as the director of Triumph of the Will, a film of a Nazi Party rally & Olympia, the classic account of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It's for these works of cinematic propaganda that Riefenstahl is revered ...more
Paperback, 681 pages
Published January 15th 1995 by Picador (NYC) (first published 1982)
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Apr 09, 2014 Braden rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The self-serving reminiscences of a Nazi propagandist and collaborator who refused to admit it. Riefenstahl is an incredibly rare blend of a person lacking self-awareness with quite a healthy sense of self-worth and fascist tendencies. Her memoirs are a fascinating example of equivocation and moral justification, but are often unbearable in its rampant self-aggrandization and total lack of remorse. Worth a read, though, if you're interested in Third Reich hangers-on, the German film industry, an ...more
Jessica T.
I have defeated you Leni Riefenstahl. A part of me believes this woman is a liar and a sociopath...
Jul 27, 2009 Candace rated it it was amazing
this woman was amazing.
Erik Graff
Nov 26, 2012 Erik Graff rated it liked it
Recommends it for: cinema fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
Back during high school a few of us drove to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois to see Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, a film I have not seen since but remember with extraordinary clarity, so impressive was it, visually speaking. Other than clips from her later Olympia, I have not seen her other cinematic productions.

Consequently, I picked this up without knowing much about the author beyond the fact that she was the most famous film director associated with the Third Reich. I had
Jul 25, 2011 Mark rated it liked it
Shelves: history, memoir, holocaust
Ms. Riefenstahl is more or less the prisoner of history. Having been one of the world's greatest innovative cinematographers, and forced to create what was effectively "the most effective propaganda fill of all time" the Triumph of the Will, Ms Reifenstahl keeps her own reputation intact by being the person who also documented the 1936 Olympics, her film of which, Olympia, was given awards in all the countries Hitler later conquered. She insists on her apolitical freedom, and takes refuge from t ...more
Steven Elliott
Oct 26, 2013 Steven Elliott rated it really liked it
A long but such a rewarding read. Riefenstahl's memoir is vivid, detailed and oh so exciting to read and she finds every moment she can to tell her story and show her successes and failures. Controversial indeed, but there is no denying that Riefenstahl is possibly the most innovative female film director and in every way, a true artist.
Roman Moguchiy
May 09, 2013 Roman Moguchiy rated it it was amazing
Не люблю мемуары как жанр, но простые, честные, литературные истории — это всегда интересно.
May 21, 2017 Hung-ya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’ t think there is anyone who dares to deny the prominence and accomplishments of Leni Riefenstahl, I myself was especially so after watching Triumph of the Will.

I admire the courage and bravery of hers to disclose her life in almost full details, especially when she knew that doing so, she was also telling the readers about her woven past with the Nazis. I adore the fact that how she came through on the top of her profession when all other brilliant fellow professionals were dominantly mal
Feb 20, 2017 Calvin rated it did not like it
I can count on two fingers the number of books I have not finished. It must be the guiding hand of adulthood gently nudging me closer to my mortality when I recognize that to continue the tradition of finishing books for the sake of completion is flawed and deserves caveats from time to time. This is one of those times. I made it 441 pages into this memoir, a shallow, narcissistic journey through the narrowed down, cleaned up story that Riefenstahl chose to present as her own at the end of her h ...more
Chris Landry
Jul 19, 2014 Chris Landry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Riefenstahl's daring and technical skill is matched only by her narcissism and complete lack of remorse for not following many of her contemporaries in leaving Germany in the early thirties. If you can deal with an unreliable narrator, and you are interested at all in the history of film and fascism, this is a wild and engaging story.

Some notes:

- She maintains to the end that she is apolitical, that she has no ideas about racism or patriotism
- By her account she has a devastating e
Mar 01, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 08, 2010 Stephanie rated it liked it
Leni Riefenstahl is a perfect gateway into the German mindset during WWII. Throughout the book she is constantly aware of keeping up her mask of ignorance while promoting her artistic talent. It would be impossible to say she did not make an impact on the way films are made. One can tell she is aware that the reader has already convicted her as a Nazi collaborator in his or her mind, and she dances around her life story in an effort to prove her innocence. This is unlikely to give you a 100% tru ...more
Rom Gayoso
Feb 01, 2015 Rom Gayoso rated it liked it
The book was a very interesting read beginning to end. Some of her early life was a mystery to me, so I was able to understand her challenges, as well as to understand her mentors and the people she admired. I was disappointed with her lack of responsibility for the work she did during WWII. The propaganda movies were mostly tasteless poor quality works, but her work was utterly impressive and certainly was a lot more effective for the propaganda machine. Susan Sontag in an essay later debated - ...more
Alejandro Salgado B.
Nov 06, 2016 Alejandro Salgado B. rated it it was amazing
“Memorias”, es una confesión muy valiosa, triste y sentida, de una de las grandes directoras y artistas de la historia del cine. Un retrato informativo y satisfactorio, por dar a conocer de primera mano el conocimiento y visión que tenía sobre el cine, además de conocer sus técnicas de filmación, edición y montaje; también es un retrato triste y desgarrador, por la maldición que la persiguió de por vida y le impidió hacer lo que más amaba; pero especialmente, es una historia de fortaleza y de vo ...more
A substantive and informative book which has as its central problem the issue of Riefenstahl's complicity in the Nazi regime. If one is looking for some kind of insight and anecdotal observations on the Weimar film industry, major actors and directors of the period (such as Emil Jannings, F.W. Pabst, Marlene Dietrich) then this is a very useful read. However when Leni tries to provide any form of self-analysis or reflection there are problems with her ego and her need to excuse herself for being ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Margaret rated it liked it
I found it hard to get a handle on this book, Leni presents herself as a woman with a very direct personality and who is strong and almost obsessively driven to succeed in a world were women where still treated as lesser citizens. Any goal she set for herself she achieved, all men desired her, all women were jealous of her (which she portrays as an annoying hindrance to her work). Then she decides to meet Hitler and gets ensnared by the Reich, who apparently never directly financed her most famo ...more
Nancy Thormann
Aug 16, 2014 Nancy Thormann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last 80 pages were good. I still can't believe how badly she was treated by the German people. She seems to have been well accepted by the Americans and British. They seemed to appreciate her work as a director more than the Germans did. The Germans seemed to have gone from the extreme of accepting everything Hitler and the Nazis did to accepting nothing about the Nazis and Hitler. The world was black and white to them, especially in the years after the War. There was no middle ground anywhe ...more
Jackson Cyril
Riefenstahl seems to have had done more in one lifetime than most families manage to do in a generation. A overwhelming passion for life and a genuine spirit of joie de vivre permeates this work. That being said, she still seems unable to be able to see Hitler for the criminal that he was. She has no problem blaming Goebbels and the rest of the Nazi crew, but her reverential--almost erotic-- attitude towards Hitler is hard to digest. I think she, like Herbert von Karajan, used the Nazi years to ...more
May 18, 2013 Vasile rated it liked it
As the blurb says, "as one of the most controversial and debated character of the twenty first century" However, as a student studying the rise to prominence of Leni Riefenstahl and looking at it in a historical and source based analyse, it's a hard and difficult praise. But in hindsight, I loved reading the life of Leni and her story about her "five" lives. She was 85 when she published this book...can you believe all that she said, word-by-word? Quotes-by-Quotes from people she encountered?
Oh Leni. Through your memoir I can see why you say everyone loved you, especially Goebbels and Hitler. It's an interesting explanatory theory for making six (not four as you claim) films with fascist aesthetics. Those passages about filming on mountains and on the perilous icebergs of Greenland are beautiful and terrifying. OK, I confess I stopped at page 300 or so, but I'll be back. This is great work of fiction.
Erin Mallon
Jan 09, 2008 Erin Mallon rated it it was ok
This was the first non-text-book I read relating to World-War II. It spurred a major obsession, and was otherwise just generally really interesting. It is long and very detailed, so if you don't like this kind of thing, it might be too dry. Still, I think the subject is impossibly engrossing for anyone who likes history, especially women in history.
Oct 07, 2010 Martyn rated it really liked it
As my good friend and film professor Laura said - "I think, though, that because she was affiliated with the Nazis, people who defend her have to inflate her contribution to cinema in order to justify their interest in her. If she had been a Swiss documentarist, she'd get a few lines in a film history book, some intro class screenings, and that would be that."

Apr 11, 2013 Lea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: miscellanea
Actually my rating 4 for the book.
I understand that her memoirs are more personal than an open minded point of view. Any way, she was an outstanding woman... Foremost because she had not lost her dignity passing through the life...
Pilar Lacasa
Jul 24, 2013 Pilar Lacasa rated it really liked it
Intersting. I think about silent movies, women and Germany during the Nazi's time. Another perspective. under Nazism. Another view, this time explored by the author, who needs to justify her contacts with Hitler. I think this is not a good translation to Spanish
Zuzana Kaprinay
Jan 13, 2013 Zuzana Kaprinay rated it it was ok
Trying to find the answer, how she was coping with the responsibility for supporting the hitler's regime. I did not believe, that she "did not know" how she was stating, but after the book i know it for sure, that she just did not care at all:-(
Jun 02, 2007 kateywatey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dipping in and out to 1). prepare myself for Steven Bach's new bio. and 2). allow her voice haunt me like it did on the first read.

Gripping, fascinating, what a life....
Feb 15, 2011 Renata rated it really liked it
Great biography. Believe it or not, I decided to read it because it's one of Tina Fey's favorite books. : ...more
Ben Morrison
Mar 27, 2007 Ben Morrison rated it liked it
This was pretty good. Really long, but a surprisingly easy read. Who to believe? Was she a nazi or a dope? Someone else please read this book, so I can talk about it with you. It's worth it.
Leo Jacobowitz
Sep 26, 2007 Leo Jacobowitz rated it it was ok
oh no!!!!!!!! Its Leni Riefenstahl!!!!!! Arrghhhgggghhhh!!!! She's a nazi.....a N A Z I - O T S Y!
This is one great biography - and she is one brilliant artist. AArrrghghghghghgh!!!!
W0lya rated it it was amazing
Dec 27, 2013
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Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl (German pronunciation: [ˈʁiːfənʃtaːl]; 22 August 1902 – 8 September 2003) was a German film director, actress and dancer widely noted for her aesthetics and innovations as a filmmaker. Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), a propaganda film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi Party. Riefenstahl's prominence in the Th ...more
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