Leni Riefenstahl is best known for impressive her directorial work,
most notably the films Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will)
(1935) a propaganda film about the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg and
Olympia (1938) which chronicled the 1938 Olympics in Berlin.
Before she ever stepped behind a camera though, Leni was a successful actress.
She first came to the public's attention while staring in a series of
mountaineering films directed by Arnold Fanck. Fanck held a doctorate
degree in geology, and was an avid mountain climber. He thought that
the drama and danger of ascending peak would make the perfect setting for
a film, and he was right. He built a career around mountain epics.
Kino has now released a trio of Fanck's films that star Leni Riefenstahl.
They include S.O.S. Eisberg, Die Weiße Hölle vom Piz
Palü (The White Hell of Pitz Palu) and this film, Fanck
and Riefenstahl's first talkie, Stürme über dem Mont Blanc
(Storm over Mount Blanc.)
Hannes (Sepp Rist) is in charge of reporting the weather from atop Mount
Blanc. He lives alone in a small cabin on the mountain, and his only
link with civilization is his wireless set that he uses to send daily reports
in Morse Code.
Hella Armstrong (Leni Riefenstahl) and her father who used to be a weatherman
on Mount Blanc, climb up the mountain to visit the strapping young fellow.
They stay for a few days and Hannes shows Hella all over the mountain.
The two quickly fall in love, but dare not say anything to each other.
Back in town, Hella starts hanging out with a friend of Hannes, Walter
(Mathias Wieman.) Walter also falls for Hella, and writes to Hannes
that he's planning on marrying the young girl. This crushes poor
Hannes and he volunteers to stay on the mountain for another season without
relief. But when his gloves blow away in the middle of a terrible
storm Hannes fingers freeze, a deadly situation on the top of a mountain.
He is able to send an SOS, but will Hella be able to reach him in time?
This film is filled with wonderfully beautiful scenery. The images
of clouds pouring between mountain peaks like water and the snow covered
fields are really lovely. Unfortunately, that's about all this movie
has going for it.
The plot revolves around your standard love triangle, but it's terribly
uninteresting because you never get to know any of the characters.
They are all very one dimensional and time is never spent developing their
personalities. Hella comes across as being pretty stupid. She
never realizes that Walter is in love with her, nor does she tell him about
her feelings for Hannes. She cooks and cleans for Walter (for free)
and spends most of her free time with him. She sure was acting like
she was interested in him.
The plot was really slow moving too. Every scene of importance
was separated by minutes and minutes of mountain scenes. These were
very picturesque, but they didn't move the plot along at all. There
was just too many scenes of people skiing that were thrown in for no good
reason. The film felt bloated and padded.
Leni Riefenstahl and Sepp Rist
on top of a mountain. The two actors actually had to climb the peak,
director Arnold Fanck didn't beleive in stunt doubles.
Though this was advertised as a sound movie, it is really a silent film
with a few sound sections included. Like The Jazz Singer,
most of the film is silent, though there is a soundtrack accompanying the
film that consists of music and sound effects. It's nearly ten minutes
into the film before anyone speaks, and then it's only a short exchange.
I wouldn't be surprised if this was planned as a silent film and sound
was added at the last minute.
The lack of dialog isn't a flaw with the film though, it's the simple
plot and glacial pace that makes this movie mainly of historic value.
The two channel German audio track is about what you'd expect from an
early talkie. The dynamic range is very narrow, there is some background
noise, and the voices sound a little tinny. Aside from this, the
audio was adequate.
The full frame image wasn't stellar, but it looked fine for a film this
old. Just about every frame has some specks or scratches present,
and there were a few missing frames. Some sections were very soft,
but generally the film was fairly sharp. The contrast was fine, and
the level of detail was very good through most of the movie. For
a 75 year old film this doesn't look bad at all.
Also included on this disc is a 10 minute silent short, Cloud Phenomena
of Maloja (1924), directed by Arnold Fanck. This documentary
shows Fanck's love for mountains as he shows various cloud formations around
a group of mountains in the Swiss Alps. A very entrancing and beautiful
There is also a very interesting photo gallery with behind the scenes
shots, promotional stills and advertising for the movie. I especially
enjoyed some of the life-on-the-set photos.
A cameraman on skis films Leni
This film has some lovely scenery, but that can only carry a movie so
far. The lack of a decent story and almost no characterization make
this a tired and overly long film. There was some suspense at the
end, but by that time it was too little too late. The fact that the
race to save Hannes at the end didn't have anything to do with the love
triangle that had been the main driving force of the movie up until that
point was a little odd too. I'm glad I watched it, but don't think
I'll be putting this disc in my DVD player anytime soon. Rent