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A Memoir

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  277 ratings  ·  42 reviews
An autobiography of controversial German dancer, actress and eventually Hitler's top national film executive, Leni Riefenstahl. ...more
Paperback, 681 pages
Published January 15th 1995 by Picador (NYC) (first published 1987)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  277 ratings  ·  42 reviews


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Braden
Apr 09, 2014 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...
Paul Cornelius
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Leni Riefenstahl died in 2003, when she was 101 years old, the last surviving member of Hitler's inner circle. How much of her life after 1945 was an attempt to cover up and mislead history is not clarified by this memoir. But what is there is a stunning record of how Riefenstahl came of age and entered the German film industry when it was at its height, making Mountain Films and developing a production technique that would come to full fruition in her documentaries, Triumph of the Will and Olym ...more
Erik Graff
Nov 26, 2012 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
...more
Mark
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, history, 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 film 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
Jelena Glazova
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible life of incredible woman! A must
Candace
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
this woman was amazing.
Ryan
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ryan by: Tina Fey
Oh, Leni, what are we going to do with you? An exhaustive and exhausting memoir from the innovative filmmaker of Triumph of the Will, Olympia, some prewar mountain films and postwar documentaries on African tribes and Maldive scuba diving. Riefenstahl's pre-war, wartime and postwar experiences are by far the most interesting and thrilling sections of the book, especially her encounters with Hitler and the Third Reich upper management team, but she gives these years far less attention than they d ...more
Susan Liston
Whoa, finally finished. This is actually a good book to read over a long period because she neatly divides her story into titled anecdotes, some only a page or so long. (Also she goes into great amounts of detail that might have gotten a bit much if I had tried to read this straight through) Of course this is her side of everything, but she came off pretty straight forward to me, and certainly not the Nazi villainess I had always casually assumed her to be. Sometimes I would sort of forget who s ...more
Steven
Oct 26, 2013 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. ...more
Zuzanna
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is long and at times exhausting memoir of the innovative filmmaker and cinematic genius living life to the hilt. The book provides insights into a woman who experienced the heights of international success and artistic glory as filmmaker as well as the depths of prejudice and hatred for her earlier affiliations with Hitler; insights into a person who endured numerous health illnesses through the years but went to live and be professionally active until 101; insights of Germany before, durin ...more
Shelley Alongi
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book a five star rating because I appreciate the amount of work that goes into writing any length book. Considering the scope of the aftermath of producing two films during the period of the Third Reich I would venture that writing about that time period and defending her actions takes an incredible amount of energy. She explains her reasons in the last section of the book for going into such detail about conversations with Hitler and just exactly who commissioned the making of two f ...more
Hung-ya
May 21, 2017 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
...more
Zofia
Feb 01, 2021 rated it did not like it
She had an interesting life, that is for sure.
However I did not enjoy this book so much, as at some point Leni just wouldn't stop complaining about how broke she was, about the people surrounding her or about her diseases.
She has met most fascinating people, has visited amazing places, and has experienced some mind-blowing adventures. And yet she would't stop complaining. It feels like she was a person who never had enough, and would complain no matter what.
If this is how she felt about her life
...more
Ricardo
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
For some reason I don’t buy her naïveté regarding Hitler and her relationship with him and the regime. She was no doubt a gifted, strong willed and clever woman. She wants to come across as a victim. She is very convincing but I feel she is hiding more than what she is willing to say. When you read this book it is imperative to read between the lines. Her first hand accounts of the Nazi inner circle is quite interesting.
John
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Me thinks she doth protest too much. While there is no denying her artistry with a camera her actions are not that of the persecuted artist that she thought she was. She is a very unreliable narrator and therefor I can only give this a two.
Joyce Dunklee
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am really torn. Her memoir comes across as very self centered, but it is her memoir. I can't judge her. She is the only person who knows her motives for the work she did with Hitler, but I can certainly understand hostile interpretations of her films viewed as propaganda. ...more
Vladislav Velizanin
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A long and rewarding read.
Calvin
Feb 20, 2017 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating.

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
...more
Michelle
Mar 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephanie
Mar 08, 2010 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 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
Margaret
Jul 07, 2012 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
Andrew
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
Nancy Thormann
Aug 16, 2014 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
Tawney
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. ...more
Vasile
May 18, 2013 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? ...more
Erin
Jan 09, 2008 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. ...more
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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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