#81 Triumph of the Will (1935)

One of the first films we saw, The Birth of a Nation, was considered to be a propaganda film towards the Ku Klux Klan. Film has the power of more than just entertaining the masses but also have the power to influence the audience’s mind. To send a message about what the people should want and shouldn’t want. With impressive camera tricks and editing effects, those are the perfect tools for manipulation. Triumph of the Will is a documentary with propaganda intentions of Hitler and his band of Nazis at the 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally.

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Based on what we see in this documentary, it looks like filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl is showing how the Nazis are these political heroes for Germany with Adolf Hitler being its faithful leader. We see a montage of shots of swastika signs, the eagle, and soldiers marching in straight lines with dignity. This is really a propaganda on Germanic pride for the country as well as for youth to join the movement. We see glimpses of the children’s smiles as they are pledging to join the Nazi Youth movement and having fun with each other. There are a lot of panoramic cameras to show moving images of the rally as well as even a tiny camera on an elevator as high as the flagpole. 

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Watching Triumph of the Will can give anybody a lot of chills. While this may seem like a film made for the greater good to bring everybody to the side of the Nazis, what no one including Riefenstahl knew back then was Hitler’s plan to commit mass murder to anyone that was considered a “problem” to the perfect breed of Germans. Seeing Hitler give his speeches with such power and using authoritative hand gestures while you see the audience and the soldiers smile and chant “Heil Hitler” will make anyone soak up his words. His speeches are shot from below as you see the clouds above him.

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Riefenstahl has the talents to make this little man suddenly become a force to be reckoned with. Hitler preaches of the importance of fighting for Germany and to remove the “bad elements.” As much as Hitler was an inhuman monster, the only thing I can give him props for is his public speaking– the fact that he can hold the audience in the palm of his hand and use language such as “Our party is as firm as this rock and will not be divided by any force in Germany” is just unbelievable. If only those skills could have been used for good instead of evil.

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Of course, Triumph of the Will faced its controversy in making a propaganda film of an unethical system to strengthen a country. Of creating Hitler to be the messiah of Germany. Leni Riefenstahl was arrested for four years for glorifying the Nazis and was called a Nazi sympathizer. The truth was that Riefenstahl was the farthest thing from a Nazi sympathizer as she had no idea what the Nazis plans were of mass destruction against the Jews. She made the film as requested by Hitler and showed a “cinema veritas” of what she saw- no one can deny that the rally was a historic moment and she was just capturing the rally for what it was- that it happened and that Hitler used the rally to gain followers. It doesn’t mean that she agreed with it. She may regret that the film showed Nazis in a bright light but doesn’t regret that her film became a piece of art. What do you think? Other films were inspired by Triumph of the Will such as Lion King, Star Wars storm troopers, and in my opinion Hunger Games. If you could make a propaganda film, what would it be on? If you ever make one and need tips, look no further than this film.

Watch this powerful propaganda film and write in your thoughts:

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