p.p1 a secret that a lot of film

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It is not a secret that a lot of film fanatics believe that from a visual point of view, most films made during the Weimer Republic (1919 – 1933) are considered milestones in film history. Contrasting to this however, was what was about to ascend in the German film industry. Under Nazi rule, most would agree that the German filmmakers were clearly lacking any major film contribution, with the exception of Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938). Directed by none other than Leni Riefenstahl, the films were to become revolutionary all across the globe. German propaganda at it’s ultimate best, I will be closely analysing Triumph of the Will (1935) in order to find out the socio-cultural influence that it had on the industry, both back in the world war II period as well as today. I will research using various methods to ensure that I receive an advanced understanding of not only Riefenstahl’s work, but also on Third Reich cinema as a whole. 

Firstly, I want to begin by identifying the word ‘propaganda’. The text book definition of the word is “Ideas, facts or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause”, which in short form is something that is created in order to brainwash you into believing a certain thing. People come across propaganda every single day, from actors promoting teeth whiteners to public signs put up by activist groups, but the difference between that type of propaganda and propaganda created by the government is the ultimate magnitude of it. I personally believe that this is what has happened with Triumph of the Will. Many believe that it is a masterpiece and a pioneer of early film-making, however, isn’t that what they want you think? Many are familiar with the film without watching it as they have heard of it’s ‘artistic’ reputation and it’s advancement in film-making. Nazi sympathisers spent years promoting the idea that Triumph of the Will is a masterpiece. This was an intentional message to make people believe that Nazi films were essentially the best and that they could produce the most professional work on screen. I don’t believe it is known as a masterpiece due to it’s visuals and cinematography, because everything in the film had been done previously but it was due to how much money was thrown into the budget by the Nazi government. Triumph of the Will isn’t the beginning of on screen propaganda and it wasn’t even Riefenstahls first propaganda film, but it was the fact that no government had before put so much money into propaganda that is really what set the film apart from the rest. The actual scope of the film was massive. For example, there weren’t a couple aerial shots, there were hundreds and there were around 30 cameras set up in many different angles of the rally in order to really capture the observational technique that is still commonly used in documentaries today. Camera placements were carefully chosen with 16 camera men dressed in uniform in order to stay unnoticed. The film is made to show the economic wealth of the Nazi party and ultimately, how powerful they really are. Extravagance and indulgence surrounded by swastika flags plastered on every building, with hundreds of people looking on with adoration of their leader. The montage scenes seem to go on for a longer than necessary, but this was intentional. For example, the hundreds of soldiers were shown in shots that went on for an almost ridiculous length of time, which was to show the huge force of the army, again coming down to scope. This film is not in my eyes a masterpiece, but a hugely budgeted propaganda case study.

Now to find out about the woman behind the widely recognised film, Leni Riefenstahl who was born in 1902 in Berlin, Germany. Due to her creative talents, she was recognised by famous theatre director Max Reinhardt, and by the age of 24, she had danced for huge audiences around the world until she suffered a knee injury. She then went on to acting and starred in numerous “mountain” films, which were in basic, realistic adventure stories set in the Alps (Refer book). The mountain films went on to influence the overall style and themes that were to appear in her own two masterpieces, Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens, 1935) and Olympia (Olympia, 1938). 1932 marked the start of her film career with The Blue Light (1932), in which she produced, directed and starred. Although a great time for Riefenstahl, it also came with the lowest point of the economic depression in Germany. Adolf Hitler claimed that his party would open new opportunities for people, including employment for many, which Riefenstahl believed and by January 1933, the pair had met on numerous occasions. His ultimate praise for The Blue Light seemed to flatter her, but she was still of course, wary that his influence on her art may be too much. Hitler rose to power in January 1933 and although it meant a new era of prosperity, it also did a lot of damage to the independent film-making industry. Paul Joseph Goebbels, who was the Minister of Propaganda supervised every single bit of film-making, from production to research and distribution. His ultimate priority was the production of propaganda films to ensure the people of Germany were kept on Hitlers side. Hitler wanted Riefenstahl to make a film about the 1933 party rally, which annoyed Goebbels as he believed he should be making all the film decisions. A few days before the rally, Hitler asked Leni if she was prepared for filming, but she had heard nothing about it as Goebbels was adamant that he didn’t want her directing it due to her age, inexperience and gender. She ended up filming anyway, but was not happy with the shots so disassociated herself with the film, which disappeared. The reason for its disappearance was the heavy feature of founding Nazi party leader, Lance Rome (Whats his real name), who was executed a year after the film was released. It was ordered that all copies of Victory of the Faith get destroyed in an attempt to erase or change history and minamalise Lance’s contribution to the party. She was so unhappy that she told Hitler she would never make another propaganda film, however, somehow he was able to convince her to create the film Triumph of the Will (1935) as a ‘personal favour’ to him. Her personal connection to Hitler was to eventually be the end of her career. 

Triumph of the Will was released on 1935 and is a documentation of the annual Nazi party Congress at Nuremberg in 1934. The documentary is made with real footage and has won several awards in Europe(examples). The film displays Hitler leading the nation and is known for its extreme propagandistic views as well as many thinking of it as a piece of art. The cinematography and editing techniques are applauded even in the modern day even with most having to watch it in battered 16mm copies or on videotape (Culbert, 1986). The documentary itself captures the historical event, and also encapsulates the hope and emotion that Hitler was supposedly giving the people. Although it is seen to glorify Adolf Hitler, it was also praised for capturing from the eyes of the people in terms of nation building in Germany after the years of depression that they went through. For example, on the third day of the event, Hitler gave an introduction speech and said the line “We want to be one with the people”. As he says this, the shot changes from showing Hitler, to a close up of a child. The transition is meant to show that whether you are a leader or a follower of the Nazi party, all of Germany is together and equal. It perceived Nazi’s in such a way in order to not only convince the people of Germany, but also to show the rest of the world the power that they had due to the support. The opening sequence begins with Hitler coming down from above the clouds, which is to symbolise coming down from heaven as something of an angel to meet with his people. Riefenstahl was well known to create poetic meanings in her films and often cleverly edited scenes in certain sequences or captured the shots from different angles to give them meaning. For example, on day three during the youth rally before Hitler enters, there are shots of the crowd hailing him, with their anticipation as they begin to welcome their leader. Through the shots back and forth between his entry and the crowd, we get a good idea that the youths idolise him and see him as a hero. Throughout the film, there are also numerous times where Hitler is shot from a low angle, which is a typical way to make someone seem bigger and more powerful. This technique is now commonly used in many films. 

Paragraph 4 – Influence on other films
Why was it influencial for the era? 
What did it do to people? 
Influence on other films (Include case studies) 
The fall of Leni
Some of the shots of the film have influenced films such as Star wars, James bond and many more

Sum up research – Was it useful, interesting?
What will you continue to research
Mention how you wanted to take on a challenge in learning something you knew nothing about. 

To conclude, Triumph of the Will is a documentary in which Leni Riefenstahl used observation as well as poetic expression to get across a message of Nazi power. Her film-making rise and fall is something that will be spoken about for a long time, with the world split between whether she was an artistic pioneer or merely a nazi supporter who did well given the huge budget she received. The films overall influence is something that I can’t argue with, as it has been an inspiration for many films, and will most likely continue to be. I originally chose to look into Nazi film propaganda as it was a subject that I knew nothing about and I wanted to challenge myself to learn something new. This has been a huge learning experience, with knowledge that I will carry with me and build more upon. In the future, I would like to look more into German expressionism and explore the effect it had on other countries.