1930s Triumph of the Will (1934)

Published on November 5th, 2012 | by Chris

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Triumph of the Will (1934)

Triumph of the Will (1934)With the election coming up (ha!) I figured it was about time I finally got around to witnessing Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda masterwork, Triumph of the Will .

Well, I have to say I was somewhat underwhelmed.  Honestly, I had heard about this film, and how it was such a groundbreaking and heinous piece of propaganda, this and that....  But, I don't know, really.  I wasn't completely shocked or stunned, or anything like that.  The lead-in I read went something like "shows how Hitler came to put the people of Germany under his spell" or whatever.  I guess I was expecting it to be a whole lot more, I don't know, sinister or something.

Don't misunderstand, the bits of this that do include Hitlers speeches and those of his officials are, well, exactly what you'd expect them to be.  "Germany is great, hail the Fuhrer, blah blah."  In all of its self-glorifying madness, which we wouldn't really come to understand fully until after the war.  (Hindsight being 20/20 and all that.)  Yes its despicable, yes you want to just reach in there and smack each and every one of them.  But its all rather textbook at this point in history.

Also, I didn't see, in this film, so much how he came to put Germany under his spell, but only that it was.  The endless shots of people saluting and cheering and scrambling to get a view of this loon.....  That's what I saw.  Maybe it was an infectious sort of thing, "oh everyone else is doing it, I should too..."  I don't know, I wasn't there.  I just didn't see the precursor here, only the end result.

But, put aside all of that for a minute, what it all meant, and lets look at this piece of film from another angle.

This is really an artfully composed and pretty darned impressive piece of film.  You have to wonder if some of these events were specifically staged for this movie.  Such as the speeches and gathering at the stadium.

A few scenes, in particular, strike me as very odd.  Namely the "dark" ones.  The scenes with the night-time meetings and the bonfires, with the banners.... while still very artfully done, its well, just creepy.  Bordering on the sinister in imagery, but never really in rhetoric.

Truthfully, the only reason you should *want* to see this movie, is if you're a) interested in film history, b) interested in propaganda history, or c) forced to see it as part of a class in either or both a) and b).  Or, of course, d) which is as a lesson in film-making.  Not so much from a content viewpoint (I sure as hell hope not!) but from a composition take.

I'm actually not going to rate this movie.  Why not? Because while I have to give Riefenstahl ample credit for creating a nice-to-look-at visually breathtaking piece of film (alone in this respect it would get high marks), the actual content precludes me from putting any sort of stock behind it.  at all.  I'm just not going there.

Oh, the hell with it.  Here's the entire showing of Triumph of the Will  I would say enjoy, but it is a little bit uncomfortable.  For history's sake.

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Description

Triumph of the Will is one of the most important films ever made. Not because it documents evil--more watchable examples are being made today. And not as a historical example of blind propaganda--those (much shorter) movies are merely laughable now...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio:
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: Ryko Distribution
Manufacturer: Synapse Films
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Hermann Goering
  • Rudolf Hess
  • Werner von Blomberg
  • Werner von Fritsch

Features

  • This documentary of the Sixth Nazi Party Congress at, ironically enough, Nuremberg, is a frightening example of powerful film propaganda. It helped launch Hitler into power and its sweeping style was later used by American director Frank Capra for his war documentaries. Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: DOCUMENTARIES Rating: NR Age: 654930305294 UPC: 654930305294 Manufactur

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About the Author

I’ve been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I’ve been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



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