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In the history of cinematography the period before and during the World War II is well known for a number of propaganda films, which attracted huge social attention and were aimed on raising social and political activity of the nation. Triumph of Will (Germ. Triumph des Willens) could be the best illustration of propaganda cinematograph of pre-war times. It’s black and white, full-length film, produced by a number of activists o0f German cinematograph of that times under direction of Leni Riefenstahl (real name Berta Helene Amalie Riefenstahl). Leni Riefenstahl is famous for her actress and directing career and later became a famous photographer, as after the 2nd World War her directing career fall into decay as she was strongly associated with Nazis. The aim of this essay is to analyze the peculiarities and the manner of film making of those times. Seek for the methods Leni Riefenstahl has chosen to reach her target group and observe with the help of the propaganda films peculiarities the typical image of propaganda films. At the times it was released the film was strongly honored by the European publicity and achieved several awards. Nowadays it could be related to as a piece of historical illustration, one of the best illustrations of Nazi party at the peak of it power: “Designed by Nazis, for Nazis, and about Nazis. Triumph of the Will was filmed by the German Propaganda Ministry in 1934 and directed by Leni Riefenstahl. The film covers the events of the Sixth Nuremburg Party Congress. The original intention was to document the early days of the NSDAP, so as future generations could look back and see how the Third Reich began. In reality, Triump des Willens shows historians how the Nazi state drew in the masses through propaganda and also how Adolf Hitler had a unique and terrifying ability to entice crowds to his beliefs by the very power of his words” (Lenin Imports, 2010).
Triumph of Will. Analysis of Film. Understanding the Means Used by Director to Reach the Desired Effect
The film history starts in 1933, when Riefenstahl accept ted an offer by Adolf Hitler to create a film Victory of Faith devoted to the fifth congress of NSDAP in Nurnberg, so called “victorious party convention”. She worked with such outstanding operators of that times as Sepp Allgeier, Franz Weimeir and Walter Frentz and provides cross cutting by herself. It is not surprising that the film producing was assisted by the German propaganda ministry, headed by Joseph Goebbels but the film showed that the director and NSDAP are not ready for full time documentary. Yet in April 1954 Hitler appoints Riefenstahl for creation Triumph of Will, the film which would be one more illustration of NSDAP congress, so called “unity and power party convention”. The producing company Reichsparteitagfilm GmbH was created for the film producing and as well as the previous film, Victory of Faith, the film was financed by NSDAP, it goes without saying that this produced a significant effect on the whole concept of the film. Riefenstahl took in her hands direction of the film coverage, which were held from the 4th till the 10th of September in Nurnberg. Her team consisted of 170 people (36 of them were operators) and 30 cameras were in their arsenal. They used different technical methods to reach the desired effect, fixing cameras on the flagstaffs, hanging them on dirigible, Hitler was filmed from different points: “His delivery is passionate and convincing, if not a little maniacal. Seeing the tiny man’s impeccably groomed hair come flying loose as he bellows his almost dogmatic beliefs is far too memorable. These scenes of passionate speaking are coupled with almost overwhelming lengths of film in which the iconic, almost Romanesque nature of the Nazis are put up on proud display” (Lyon, 2004). Leni Riefenstahl needed 7 months to cross cut the film and finishing the work over it. The material shoot had a length of several hundred hours and she created a film, lasted 114 minutes. Herbert Windt was the one who composed music for this film, to complete symbolic picture of the significant step in film making industry. Triumph of Will was released in 28th of March 1935 in the presence of Adolf Hitler, in Berlin.
Leni Riefenstahl later noted that she did not want to create some kind of chronicle or report, her aim was to create a feature film as it does not correspond to the heroic style, and inner rhyme of the real event, it should be felt and subjected to its personal moving and reflect the feature film itself. The internal understanding of the task draws such a meaning as creative solution. Nowhere in the world there was no country so interested in the solution of cinematograph problems. That is his face, which addresses us, its Führer and his associates. The whole nation considers Führer the reflection of them (Der Deutsche, 17.01.1935). Later she noted that this expression were the program of cross cut of the film. She created a cinematographic symphony of movement, where Hitler took to core place, even if he is absent at the place, where the events take part. Rhythm and movement are used in the film as the core creative principles, while the cinematographic material was organized, to cause the viewers emotional reaction and impression as if he personally participated in the NSDAP congress: “Swastika-emblazoned flags billow majestically, superimposed over the goose-stepping legions of the SS and the Hitler youth. Majestic music blares as the teeming masses (including a disturbing number of smiling children) show their support. Most chilling of all is a scene in which Hitler’s motorcade stops so that he can accept a bouquet of flowers from a young girl. This is pure manipulation of the viewer, and one can truly see how it worked” (Lyon, 2004).
The same time the director made a stress on the documentary character of the movies, considering that objective description of the real historic event took place. Hence her work with documentary material anyway moves to the dramatization of the congress, which was from the very beginning the set scene for the fill making process. The same time none would argue that the film has a great historical importance: “This film is certainly a piece of great historical importance, and Synapse has treated it as such. While there is a definite presence of damage, dirt, and grain, the restoration is far beyond what one would expect. Contrast held up pretty well, even as the black levels fluctuated wildly, creating a flickering effect. Audio is about as clear as can be expected, sounding flat and hollow” (Lyon, 2004).
Riefenstahl used a number of innovative methods. The weather conditions of the September 1934 assisted realization of some new cinema effects. As it was mentioned earlier there were a number of professional operators and also there were working hundreds of assistants, administrators and other staff. If you look thorough than you could see on one of the huge flagstaffs there could be seen a moving carbine with cinema operator. One of the most attractive and impressive episodes is the ceremony of sanctification the new standards of Sturmabteilung (; assault detachments), which was held by the veteran of this movement. “Blood Standard”, keeping the blood of Beer Hall Putsch (known also as Munich Putsch or Hitler – Ludendorff – Putsch ) martyrs, symbolizing the succession of the father’s generation, who lost the World War I and remembering the 20 years path of Hitler to the top of his political career and governmental power. It goes without saying that the film is full of symbolic features, one of them is related with the greeting, which has deep philosophical concepts connected to Nietzsche racial theory. The gesture meaning “from heart to the Sun”, is denoting the dominating and outstanding position of German nation among the other nations. We understand that the film and the whole congress are set stage production; hence it does not decrease the magnificence of the event and the manner of its representation. It goes without saying that the best impression is provided on the audience that was not familiar to the Hitler and his behavioral habits. At that times Germany was seeking for significant changes and collaboratively with such propaganda films he reached the desired effect, the belief of people, the admiration of the whole nation was concentrated on one and only political figure Adolf Hitler. It is not surprising that even now the show of this film is limited. Hence from the artistic point of view Triumph of Will is considered one of the best documentary films during the whole history of documentary films.
It is essential that due to the success of the film a number of reminiscent scenes appeared in contemporary film industry. The heritage of Triumph of Will is living rights now, in the numerous documentaries reflecting the era of national-socialism, where the shots from this film are used. The most long living illusion created by Triumph of Will is in the fact that Nazi Germany was perfectly organized country, even evil by its nature, but so impressing. This core impression was created by Lei Riefenstahl and used by numerous directors in their movies. The investigators consider that such outstanding creative works as George Lucas’s Star Wars and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of Rings also have a number of elements and scenes taken from the outstanding creation by Leni Riefenstahl. It is essential that the film is studies by contemporary directors as one of the best pieces of military leaders’ representation and some scenes are borrowed by the directors to implement them in contemporary cinematography. As an extraordinary piece of the film industry the film lived it own life and as it often happened influenced its creator more than creator the film. Leni Riefenstahl was so strongly associated with Nazi and films about Nazi, that is why after the end of the World War II her directing career was in significant decay and she actually shifted to photography. Leni Riefenstahl insisted on the fact the she never was a member of NSDAP, but as independent creator who needed finances and governmental assistance.
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