Triumph of the Will (German: Triumph des Willens) is a propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi leaders at the Congress, including portions of speeches by Adolf Hitler, interspersed with footage of massed party members. Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the True German Leader who will bring glory to the nation.
Triumph of the Will was released in 1935 and rapidly became one of the better-known examples of propaganda in film history. Riefenstahl’s techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of telephoto lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned Triumph recognition as one of the greatest films in history. Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries. The film was popular in the Third Reich and elsewhere, and has continued to influence movies, documentaries, and commercials to this day.
The film begins with a prologue, the only commentary in the film. The following text appears against a gray background: On 5 September 1934, …20 years after the outbreak of the World War… 16 years after the beginning of our suffering… 19 months after the beginning of the German renaissance… Adolf Hitler flew again to Nuremberg to review the columns of his faithful followers…
‘Day 1′: The film opens with shots of the clouds above the city, and then moves through the clouds to float above the assembling masses below, with the intention of portraying beauty and majesty of the scene. The shadow of Hitler’s plane is visible as it passes over the tiny figures marching below, accompanied by music from Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which slowly turns into the Horst-Wessel-Lied. Upon arriving at the Nuremberg airport, Hitler emerges from his plane to thunderous applause and a cheering crowd. He is then driven into Nuremberg, through equally enthusiastic people, to his hotel where a night rally is later held.
‘Day 2′: The second day begins with a montage of the attendees getting ready for the opening of the Reich Party Congress, and then footage of the top Nazi officials arriving at the Luitpold Arena. The film then cuts to the opening ceremony, where Rudolf Hess announces the start of the Congress. The camera then introduces much of the Nazi hierarchy and covers their opening speeches, including Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Fritz Todt, Robert Ley, and Julius Streicher. Then the film cuts to an outdoor rally for the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Labor Service), which is primarily a series of pseudo-military drills by men carrying shovels. This is also where Hitler gives his first speech on the merits of the Labor Service and praising them for their work in rebuilding Germany. The day then ends with a torchlight SA parade.
‘Day 3′: The third day starts with a Hitler Youth rally on the parade ground. Again the camera covers the Nazi dignitaries arriving and the introduction of Hitler by Baldur von Schirach. Hitler then addresses the Youth, describing in militaristic terms how they must harden themselves and prepare for sacrifice. Everyone present then assembles for a military pass and review, featuring Wehrmacht cavalry and various armored vehicles. That night Hitler delivers another speech to low-ranking party officials by torchlight, commemorating the first year since the Nazis took power and declaring that the party and state are one entity.
‘Day 4′: The fourth day is the climax of the film, where the most memorable of the imagery is presented. As the soundtrack plays themes from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, Hitler, flanked by Heinrich Himmler and Viktor Lutze, walks through a long wide expanse with over 150,000 SA and SS troops standing at attention, to lay a wreath at a World War I Memorial. Hitler then reviews the parading SA and SS men, following which Hitler and Lutze deliver a speech where they discuss the Night of the Long Knives purge of the SA several months prior. Lutze reaffirms the SA’s loyalty to the regime, and Hitler absolves the SA of any crimes committed by Ernst Röhm. New party flags are consecrated by touching them to the “blood banner” (the same cloth flag said to have been carried by the fallen Nazis during the Beer Hall Putsch) and, following a final parade in front of the Nuremberg Frauenkirche, Hitler delivers his closing speech. In it he reaffirms the primacy of the Nazi Party in Germany, declaring, “All loyal Germans will become National Socialists. Only the best National Socialists are party comrades!” Hess then leads the assembled crowd in a final Sieg Heil salute for Hitler, marking the close of the party congress. The film fades to black as the entire crowd sings the “Horst-Wessel-Lied”.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Triumph of the Will”