The medium is the message.
Wow. Profound. True!
Leni Riefenstahl was a master of media: dance, acting, film, cinema; but was a bit obtuse when it came to messages. This utterly gorgeous genius, a sensation in the theaters, one of Germany’s sexiest film stars, wrote Hitler a telegram upon his invasion of Paris congratulating him on making peace!
Well, the whole world was stupid then, and now.
This will develop around Leni, and Germany in the 1930s, art, etc. Jan and I are deep into such things the last week or two: reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, Thomas Hager’s Demon Under the Microscope (see Reading Notes), watching Leni docs (The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl) … all connected to Germany, including Nazi Germany. Taking more than five nights to watch that three hour Leni Riefenstahl bio film has been wonderful. Her photographs of the Nuba move me something terrific.
Look at her! One of the great “shot” inventors, genius of camera position, film and light chemistry …
I’ve said before and repeat here: When I was a kid I’d be taken to the movies, 1945, 46. WWII was always there, always being won by us, Hilter was always featured, his speeches, his parades. The commentary always presented him as evil; but damn, the film! the film stirred us! On the one hand Hitler looked like Charlie Chaplin, and Chaplin capitalized, no mistake. But never mind Hitler: those parades, those rallies, those scenes of all that fervor. Ah, but that was Leni Riefenstahl! Our newsreel makers used her footage. Over and over.
Now, the Third Reich did learn how to march better and better, by 1936 they were getting good at it. How much of that was Riefenstahl inspired? How much of her genius in Triumph of the Will was inspired by the Nazis. They were cross-fertilizing each other! The politics was horrible, but the drama was fabulous. Sitting there, a kid, the fervor of the footage won out over the intellectualizing of the narrative every time. The images were over-powering, the narrative was just so much fog: humidity and mist.
In fact I trace my pre-understanding of McLuhan’s point above to my experience of the phenomenon thanks to Leni Riefenstahl: when I was seven, eight years old. She trained me to mistrust the words and to follow the meta-messages.
this scrapbook will seep and spill in several directions.