Leni Riefenstahl: Triumph of the Will (1935)

Posted on : 30/11/-0001
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Triumph of the Will (German: Triumph des Willens) is a 1935 documentary directed, produced, edited and co-written by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 NSDAP Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 supporters. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by party leaders at the Congress, including Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess and Julius Streicher, interspersed with footage of massed Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel troops and public reaction. Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appearing in the opening titles. The film’s overriding theme is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation. Because the film was made after the 1934 Night of the Long Knives (on June 30) many prominent Sturmabteilung (SA) members are absent since they were murdered in that Party purge organized and orchestrated by Hitler to replace the SA with the Schutzstaffeln (SS) as his main paramilitary force. Triumph of the Will was released in 1935 and became a prominent example of propaganda in film history. Riefenstahl’s techniques—such as moving cameras, aerial photography, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, and the revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography—have earned Triumph of the Will recognition as one of the greatest propaganda films in history. Riefenstahl helped to stage the scenes, directing and rehearsing some of them at least fifty times. Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries. The film was popular in the Third Reich, and has continued to influence movies, documentaries, and commercials to this day. However, it is banned from showing in Germany owing to its support for National Socialism and its numerous portrayals of the swastika. An earlier film by Riefenstahl—Der Sieg des Glaubens—showed Hitler and SA leader Ernst Röhm together at the 1933 Nazi party congress. After Röhm’s murder, the party attempted the destruction of all copies, leaving only one known to have survived in Britain. This can be viewed at the Internet Archive. The direction and sequencing of images is almost the same as that Riefenstahl used in Triumph of the Will a year later.

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