After spending the 1930s as the Third Reich's principal cinematic chronicler, Leni Riefenstahl returned to fictional films with Tiefland.
According to Riefenstahl, she had refused to make any more propaganda pictures--for good reasons, she explained enigmatically--choosing instead to direct a period romance, based on an old Spanish play and opera by Eugen d'Albert. Riefenstahl cast herself as the central character, Marta, a Spanish dancer who becomes the romantic bone of contention between humble shepherd Franz Eichberger and imperious marquis Bernhard Minetti.
While the material seems to cry out for music, Riefenstahl plays the story straight, though much of the acting can certainly be described as operatic.
In one scene, the director utilized a band of gypsies as atmosphere extras; as soon as their scenes were completed, the gypsies were returned to their Nazi concentration camp--where most of them were doomed to extermination.
Personally financed by Riefenstahl, Tiefland was filmed between 1942 and 1944, which explains the presence of Maria Koppenhofer (who died in 1948). Final editing was not completed until around 1953, at which time Riefenstahl personally accompanied her print of the film to selected showings in Germany and Austria.