Leni Riefenstahl makes final attempt to bury Nazi past by releasing a film on fish

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The Independent Online

Adolf Hitler's favourite film director is at work again, but anyone who shows up at the première expecting to see brownshirts on a synchronised march will be disappointed.

Leni Riefenstahl has mellowed with old age and, on the threshold of her second century, wants to beguile the audience with fish.

The creator of Triumph of the Will turns 100 in August and, as she told Die Welt newspaper, intends to celebrate this event with a new oeuvre. She has been diving among coral and filming the life of the deep for decades. Now those documentaries are to be recut and presented as a new work, qualifying her for the title "the world's oldest film director".

Impressions under Water is unlikely to make as profound an impact as Triumph of the Will, which elevated the Nazis' Nuremberg rallies to an art form. Nor will it scale the peaks of Tiefland, a rustic Spanish melodrama completed shortly after the war. It was claimed that Riefenstahl had taken Gypsy actors from a concentration camp. She also shot several films set in the Alps and directed Olympia, a film about the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. She never resumed her film-making after the 1950s but successfully reinvented herself as a photographer. Her pictures of muscular Nubians in Sudan won some acclaim, although many critics found in them more than an echo of the Nazis' body cult.

Never a member of the Nazi party – merely on the payroll of Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry – Riefenstahl has repeatedly sought political rehabilitation. There have been attempts at reappraisal, notably at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which featured a Riefenstahl hagiography a year ago.

To her last breath, she is working to salvage her reputation for posterity. She has already made arrangements for a Riefenstahl museum that will open after her death.

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