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Thursday, April 14, 2011

My review of Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens)

I got about 1/5th of the way through Mein Kampf before I just got so bored I had to stop. It was just about the socio-economic status of Germany leading up to Hitler's rise to power. Plus, Hitler wasn't a particularly good writer. But, I've heard of this film a few times during my history class so I decided to watch it.

I don't see how I can give this one a rating, I mean, it's the most infamous Nazi propaganda film ever. I don't see how I can give it a positive rating. But, on the other hand, I don't see how I can give it a negative rating because it's a very important film that is well done. So, I won't give it a rating.

Now, on to the actual review:

This film...sickened me. All of those happy Germans cheering on someone who is arguably the most evil man in history. Cheering him like he is their savior. Although, for all intents and purposes he was. He stabilized their economy (the worst economy in history. more than 13 trillion German Marks to one US dollar. No I'm not kidding). But watching kids who could have been no more than 6 or 7 at the most doing the Nazi solute was hard to watch.


The film opens with Hitler riding through Germany in a car like a conqueror. People are cheering him on like he is a god. In another scene, 52,000 German workers who are about to build the Autobahn are reciting to Hitler and it almost seems like they are brainwashed. Later, there are a bunch of kids about 10-13 years old I suppose who are playing instruments for Hitler and Nazi saluting him. There are a lot of military marches and Sieg Heils (which means Hail Victory in English). That, and I have never seen so many Swastikas in one place before. Watching the military parades, I'm reminded that out of the 7 million soldiers that Hitler had fighting for him during WWII, 5.5 million of them were killed. 5.5 million German soldiers were killed fighting for a madman. A sobering thought.

A lot of people have asked me if I would kill Hitler as a baby knowing what he would become. My answer to that is no. While Hitler was taking over Austria, in an operation known as Anschluss, where he rode through the streets of Austria like a liberator...in an open car...meanwhile I'm on the roof with a high powered sniper rifle...no more Mr. Mustache. And if Goebbels was in the car too that's even better.

i cannot really bring myself to give this a rating. It is an incredibly well made film but it is still Nazi propaganda. But, as a historian I can tell you that it was absolutely fascinating seeing the fanatical devotion of the German people to their insane Fuhrer. If you're bored by movies like this, ignore this one. If you can stomach almost two hours of Nazi propaganda and you are a history buff than this is a film that is almost required viewing...kind of. It's not a film that I particularly enjoyed watching. Now that I've watched it I can only conclude one way: "My name is Lieutenant Aldo Raine and I'm putting together a special team..."


TRIVIA TIME: 1. Only one scene, the review of the German cavalry, actually involved the German military. The other formations were party organizations that were not considered part of the military.

2. Hitler himself praised the film as being an "incomparable glorification of the power and beauty of our Movement".

3. Clips from this film were used in an Allied propaganda short (reportedly the work of a Canadian film editor) set to the British dance tune, "The Lambeth Walk". The legions of marching soldiers, as well as Hitler giving his Nazi salute, were made to look like wind-up dolls, dancing to the music. Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels is reported to have seen a copy of the short film and was outraged beyond reason, leaving his screening room kicking chairs and screaming profanities.

4. The film spent 6 months in the editing suite. The two hours running time represents approximately 3% of the footage Riefenstahl shot.

5. Leni Riefenstahl directed an earlier film for the NSDAP entitled Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933), which was of an earlier rally, but all known copies of the film were destroyed after Ernst Röhm, who was featured in that film, was suspected of participating in a plot against Hitler and was executed. Rohm was head of the Nazi "brownshirts" and all published references to Rohm were ordered destroyed in an attempt to erase him from history. This film was produced to replace "Der Sieg des Glaubens", and only one complete second-generation copy of that earlier film has ever been found.

6. Riefenstahl had been given carte blanche by Hitler in the making of the film: effectively, the party rally was the first produced-for-camera event. But at the beginning the word hadn't gotten through to officials at the airport and in the parade. Riefenstahl's cameramen were pushed away from the plane carrying Hitler, which is why we see only one out-of-focus shot of Hitler descending from the plane and why the taxiing of the aircraft is repeated and out of sequence. During the parade, a shot of the camera car passing the limo carrying Hitler reveals a dirty look from one of the passengers. Riefenstahl spoke to Hitler at the hotel about the way she'd been snubbed and from then on had no problems.


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