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Squish

Nice. I also reviewed this film this week and I found the peripheral questions more important than the actual film...

Thom

Just read your review too Squishster, and I couldn't agree more about what you once termed the "odium of duration" being particularly difficult to put up with here. And I think it's obvious, as David points out at Greencine, that Riefenstahl's techniques influence how images are manipulated for specific purposes.

Thom

And though it's off-topic—congrats on your Friday Screen Test, Squish! Humorous and fascinating as always :)

Pacze Moj

Even though I like Olympia more, Triumph of the Will is an incredible and influential piece of documentary filmmaking.

Some thoughts, snippets...


About Nazi Germany & film propaganda: it's interesting to note that Hitler preferred the straight "here's what to think" type of film, as Triumph of the Will is, while Goebbels thought it best to include elements of propaganda in entertainment. And he seems to have been right: German audiences during the war flocked much more to fluff than they did to ideological tracts like Triumph of the Will, which was screened many, many times in the country, but not because it was a popular film.

About German Nazi propaganda versus other propaganda: it strikes me that almost every discussion of Riefenstahl or Triump of the Will has to include, if not focus on, the obligatory "this is a Nazi movie and Nazis were bad" section. Seldom (in the West, that is) have I seen Triumph of the Will discussed strictly as a bunch of well pasted-together bits of film -- something that equally-ideological films like Eisenstein's Potemkin get away with quite frequently.

Riefenstahl: some of the Riefenstahl's later work (after being banished from the cinema world) includes photography of the Nuba tribe in Africa. In these works, Susan Sontag found parallels to Riefenstahl's portrayal of masculinity in Triumph of the Will and Olympia, and dubbed Riefenstahl's a "fascist aesthetic".


There's no doubt that Triumph of the Will is propaganda. Nevertheless, I think it's been wrongfully singled out (perhaps because it is so technically advanced) as the propaganda film. That it deals with the Nazis, the Western world's villain du jour, also plays a large part in answering why, no doubt.

In short: I wish Riefenstahl would have been able to make more films during her long life.

Brian

I haven't seen this one since college. One day I may revisit it, but it's not exactly something I look forward to. Your phrase "you can like hating what this film is about and still hate liking its cinematic achievements" is a pretty nice summation.

According to the book Cinema 16: Documents Toward a History of the Film Society, Amos Vogel's New York cinema club was scheduled to show a subtitled print of Triumph of the Will, by special permission of the DOJ, on May 10, 1954.

Vogel printed the following exchange in the program notes:

Sirs: We are appalled at your showing Nazi propaganda films. As democratically-minded movie-goers, we demand that you immediately drop this obscene film fare from your programs.

T.S.

As one who has himself experienced the terror of the Hitler regime, I find your complaint almost amusing. C16 examines motion pictures from an art and a social viewpoint. There has probably been no other nation tht used films as effictively for propaganda purposes as did the Nazis. It is important to study their methods and to be aware of the terrible potentialities of the cinema as a propaganda medium. This is why we are presenting what is probably one of the best and most vicious propaganda films ever made: TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.

What is disturbing about your letter is that while you describe yourself as "democratically minded people", you at the same time attempt to dictate to others in a very undemocratic fashion ("we demand that you drop this obscene...etc). In this sense, you simply align yourself with the ever growing number of groups who advocate censorship of films on the basis of political, social, religious or moral grounds.

Amos Vogel (for Cinema 16)

Presumably the film was screened as scheduled. Indeed, several years later (November 1958 to be exact) Cinema 16 showed Franz Hippler's the Eternal Jew, a Nazi propaganda film that, according to the program notes written by Siegfried Kracauer, uses an animated diagram to compare Jews with rats. Very distressing stuff, but certainly not unsurprising.

Thom

Thank you Pacze Moj and Brian.

Pacze Moj - I agree that it would be helpful to read a piece that, as you say, broke the film down as a series of "well-pasted together bits of film." I would add that even that sort of discussion would benefit from placing the film in social, political, economic and historical context to aid our understanding of how and why those well-constructed bits of film function as they do.

Brian - thank you for digging up the source material about the controversial screening at Cinema 16. I just came across an article about MoMA screening it as part of a documentary series back in '46, but unfortunately it's just an announcement and doesn't include any reactions so your info here about the later exhibition is very much appreciated.

Squish

Thanks Thom for the kudos! WHowever negative the experience watching "Triumph", the discussion sure seems worth it.

Richard Neva

I found Leni's film Triumph of the Will to be fascinating and a historical triumph for all to see for posterity. I find nothing reprehensible in the film except the devil that was spawned, Hitler. Bush is the same devil and though I hate him I do not mind seeing his documentary films. We need to be reminded of what happens when Democracy runs amock!

Thom

Thanks for commenting Richard, As alluded to in my post the picture is fascinating to me as an example of how cinema can be used to put art in the service of politics or vice versa. I'm also a fan of the stylistic experiments in it, particularly the unusual camera angles, circular tracking shots and way momentum is built up through editing. Riefensthal seems to have had a creative hand in almost every part of filming what she later claimed was merely an observational documentary. Reading your comments I'm curious to know: what do you find fascinating about the picture? Also, when you use the terms "historical triumph" are you referring to the film as a record of an event in history, as a history film, or as a landmark film? If the latter, why is it so important that posterity see it? Can you expand on your statement about "the devil that spawned Hitler" being the only reprehensible thing in the film? I'm not sure exactly what part of the film you're refering to with that phrase, or how the film addresses it.

Also, I wonder how you happened upon the post? Are you studying the film for a class or on your own?

Thanks.

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