Junta Jumping

It takes guts to make a black and white film and call it The Blue Light, but whatever else you might want to say about Leni Riefenstahl, she had guts. She started her career as a celebrated dancer, became an actress in Dr. Fanck’s mountain films (The White Hell of Pitz Palü), and in 1932, she wrote, directed, and starred in this, her first movie– and all of that was before Hitler, Goebbels, Triumph of the Will, Olympia, Tiefland and the Nuba.

In Das Blaue Licht, Riefenstahl plays mountain-climbing outcast Junta, a wild woman of the Dolomites who is hated by the villagers because she is the only one who can make it up to the highest peak, where a crystal grotto shines blue on full moon nights. An intrepid outsider falls in love with her, discovers her secret, and ruins the ragged woman’s connection to unspoilt nature. The tragic-romantic story, framed as a legend, could be digestible if it wasn’t for Leni’s overripe mugging. Das Blaue Licht is worth seeing for her direction, though. The cinematography is suitably dramatic, and when you compare the dynamic editing to The Golem, it’s amazing how far the movies have come over the course of the decade.

Das Blaue Licht. Leni Riefenstahl and Bela Balazs, 1932. ***

YouTube has an excerpt from The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl in which she talks about editing Das Blaue Licht: