The Great Leap
Directed by Arnold Fanck
Before she became a celebrated documentarian (and notorious public figure), Leni Riefenstahl was a popular actress, best known for her “mountain films” made by director Arnold Fanck. The Holy Mountain (Der heilige Berg, 1926) and The White Hellof Pitz Palu (Die weisse Hölle vom Piz Palü, 1929) were awe-inspiring dramas of romance and survival, but her 1927 film The Great Leap (Der große Sprung) was something surprisingly different: a playful romantic comedy set high atop the Dolomites. Riefenstahl plays an Italian peasant whose simple life is upended when a series of urbanites invade the slopes for a ski vacation. This bubbly comedy (featuring Riefenstahl’s usual on-screen love interest, Luis Trenker) combines slapstick laughs with stunning footage of acrobatic skiing and rock climbing, making it perhaps the most entertaining (if unconventional) entry in the cycle of German mountain films.