Triumph of the Will (1935)

Directed by Leni Riefenstahl

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I feel like I’m doing an act of service when I call this film boring, which it is.  But it’s important, very important, and it’s influential.  It’s a fascinating historical document and certainly a spectacle, but it’s also just so boring.  It’s a propaganda film, of course, about Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party during the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, and it’s so blindly devoted to the uniformed, dressed up, bland conformity of all things dictatorship that it’s just so… boring.

The film runs nearly two hours long and features a hell of a lot of saluting, marching and standing around in neat rows.  Yes it’s a bit terrifying to look at for certain stretches of time, but the utter relentless of this imagery, the constant waves of soldiers and growing crowds, well put it this way, as a narrative storytelling beat it’s redundant.

But as a propaganda film surely they couldn’t care less.  It’s about conveying a singular image, with no hint of nuance.  It’s a film full of bloated pride, ego and mob mentality.

Early on there actually is some fascinating imagery that feels artistic in its own way.  It might just be that this being a propaganda film, it shows you Nazi imagery (flags and whatnot) in rather calm environments, juxtaposed with serene rivers, beds of flowers and the like.  Though this is all in black and white you can almost feel the beautiful blue skies of this German town, with its friendly architecture and narrow streets, albeit stuffed with Nazis.  It crossed my mind that this whole town could’ve been bombed off the map in the world war soon to follow.

The documentary opens with puffy, richly textured clouds seen from above as the plane carrying Hitler descends into Nuremberg.  It’s again so peaceful, and confusing but because of that, compelling.  Then it descends into all the massive marches, the pageantry and the short excerpts of screamed speeches about Nazi Germany.

It’s fascinating to see some of these figures up close, even a bit disturbing, but that effect wears away pretty quickly.  This is a film that hits you over the head with its imagery, powerful in the sheer number of people onscreen, but like with anything in life, you grow desensitized to it the more you’re exposed to it.

Up Next: Super Dark Times (2017), King Kong (1933), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

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