The Holy Mountain and German Mountain Films

The Holy Mountain, directed by Arnold Fanck, is a “mountain film,” a genre in German cinema that became very popular in the 1920’s.   Fanck made this genre popular when he directed the film “The Wonders of Skiing” in 1919. He was originally a professional mountain climber who began to create fictional films about mountain climbing after he saw Mont Blanc in 1913, directed by Frank Ormiston-Smith. The Holy Mountain was released in 1926 and is responsible for launching the career of Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl began her career as a dancer and made the effort to meet Fanck while he was filming. Once they had met Riefenstahl convinced Fanck to cast her as the main character of his next movie, which would be The Holy Mountain.

The Holy Mountain” is a story of a love triangle set high up in the Alps. Riefenstahl plays Diotima, the love interest of two mountain climbers. They go to see her dance together and both fall in love with her. To express his love “the friend,” immediately goes climbing in search of the most beautiful mountain to propose to Diotima on. While the friend is in search of his perfect mountain the young Vigo attempts to impress Diotima by winning a skiing contest. Diotima is in love with the friend, but plays along with the young Vigo’s flirting. The friend however sees this and takes it as a betrayal.   The two men are climbing in a dangerous blizzard when the friend finds out about Vigo’s intension and in a rage filled struggle Vigo falls over the edge of the mountain. The friend cannot pull him back up on his own so they both are stuck there until they both freeze and fall to their deaths.

Following the success of The Holy Mountain, Riefenstahl became very popular. She continued making films with Fanck and began learning about filmmaking and finally began to direct her own films. She was a very accomplished film maker who eventually caught the attention of Hitler. Riefenstahl was fascinated with Hitler when he first ran for president. She...