The German film director and photographer Leni Riefenstahl, who has died aged 101, will be remembered for two innovative, visually eloquent and lavishly funded documentaries, Triumph of the Will (1935) and the two-part Olympia (1938).
The former, a monumental, hypnotic account of the massive 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremberg which glorified Nazi pageantry and deified Adolf Hitler, earned her a place in film history and the status of a post-war pariah.
She was the first female film director to attract international acclaim, but her career was curtailed by public, industry and official antipathy owing to her status as "Hitler's favourite film-maker".
Both Triumph of The Will and Olympia are permeated by Riefenstahl's intense feeling for the expressive power of bodies in motion, whether they be marching Nazis or high divers.
Born in Berlin, Riefenstahl achieved fame as a "free" dancer in the style of Isadora Duncan, touring Europe by the age of 22 and gaining employment with Max Reinhardt.
Her film ambitions were prompted by "father of the mountain film" Arnold Fanck's 1924 Mountain of Fate, starring the Tyrolean outdoors hero Luis Trencker. The "mountain film" genre's use of cinematic technique - filters, special film stock, slow motion - to endow magnificent natural scenery with dramatic stature - provided her with key elements of her towering visual style and fostered her technical skill.
She made contact with Trencker. He later became her lover and, in 1946, her antagonist when he published a fake intimate diary purportedly by Hitler's mistress Eva Braun. This claimed that Riefenstahl had also been Hitler's mistress- an allegation she furiously denied but which pursued her for life.
But it was Fanck, a geologist, adventurer and technical perfectionist, who became her film mentor, writing The Holy Mountain as her film debut. This film, opens with Riefenstahl's performance of a dance of the sea on a rocky outcrop in Heligoland amidst crashing waves. According to her memoirs, this was what made Hitler an admirer. It was later to prompt Siegfried Kracauer to discern, in its "idolatry of glaciers and rocks", a proto-Nazi irrationalism where modern viewers are likely to see only kitsch.
More mountain films followed including a starring role in the genre's finest and most successful entry, The White Hell of Piz Palü (1929), co-directed by Fanck and G W Pabst.
Fanck had surrounded himself with the best cameramen available - the Freiburg school, including Hans "The Snowflea" Schneeburger, another of Riefenstahl's lovers. Many of them would work for her after she began directing with The Blue Light in 1932.
Riefenstahl would frequently invoke The Blue Light as evidence of the non-political nature of her talent. A fairytale starring the director as an outcast young woman luring young men to their deaths with her secret cave of blue crystals in the Tyrolean mountains, it was co-written by the leftwing Jewish intellectual and theorist Béla Bàlazs. After the war, she would conceive of the outcast heroine's loss of her "magic cavern" as a metaphor for her own disenfranchisement as a film-maker.
Riefenstahl had the first of her numerous meetings with Hitler when she was summoned to a resort near Wilmershaven while she was en route to Greenland to star in Fanck's SOS Eisberg (1933), which was made simultaneously in an American version by Tay Garnett. She had, by her own account, been "mesmerised" by his oratory at a Nazi meeting at the Berlin Sportpalast some months earlier, prompting her to write an admiring letter requesting a meeting.
In 1933, when the Nazis had consolidated their grip on power with the March elections and begun their official anti-semitic campaigns with boycotts of Jewish businesses and the introduction of the Aryan clause, which banned Jews from working in the film industry, Hitler commissioned her to make Victory Of Faith, a record of the 1933 Nazi Party rally.