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TRAVEL YOUR OWN HISTORY
Maksym Chornyi

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TRAVEL YOUR OWN HISTORY Triumph of the Will analysis

Triumph of the Will analysis

by Maksim Chornyi
January 04 2019
35 minutes read

Leni Riefenstahl on her way to the Triumph of the Will

Bertha Helena (hence Leni) Amalia Riefenstahl was born on August 22, 1902, in Berlin. As early as being a young woman, she linked her life with an educational art, but her dreams were directed to presenting herself within a stage, as a professional ballet dancer and actress. Helena was so talented and passionate about art that she succeeded to compose her own variations of dance movements and even sewed costumes for performances. This talent did not go unnoticed, and young Leni Riefenstahl fell under the spotlight of Max Reinhardt, an iconic theater director, who later made her a celebrity thanks to performances at the ‘Deutsches Theater‘. By the age of 24, Leni, as her relatives and colleagues already used to call her, had managed to sell out concert halls in all major theaters in Europe. However, a serious knee injury laid an ominous shadow on the future of Riefenstahl as a professional dancer, who now had time to think about her perspectives elsewhere.

While surpassing this competitive period of her life, driven by depression and existential thoughts about the future, Leni Riefenstahl came to the show of one of the so-called “mountain films”. Representing a combination of a documentary on skiing and adventure history, these films delighted and inspired the young creative nature of Riefenstahl. When the clouds of uncertainty have cleared away, the girl received an offer, from the very same director Max Reinhardt, to try herself as an actress in the romantic tragedy called ‘Penthesilea‘. Despite the obvious perspective, Leni favored making her debut as a film actress in the production of a new “mountain film” directed by Arnold Fanck.

Although the director preferred to work with professional athletes, Leni Riefenstahl’s athletic character and dance experience made her an undisputed leading female role favorite of Fanck. Over the next six years, from 1926 to 1931, Leni Riefenstahl performed key parts in five “mountain films”, the documentary by Arnold Fanck. The experience gained was invaluable in shaping the creative perception of her mindset. The very contrast of the physical and spiritual components of the “mountain films” of the 1920-s will help to form a similar directorial vision in “Triumph of the Will” (Triumph des Willens) and especially “Olympia” years after.

Leni Riefenstahl on her way to the Triumph of the Will

Having gained confidence in her own creative powers, Helena Riefenstahl, a twenty-nine-year-old actress, and former dancer founded her own film company already in 1931. The debut work, which materialized as early as next year, was the ‘Das Blaue Licht» (Blue Light) mountain film, which transformed an established genre of entertaining melodrama into a creative breakthrough of the Riefenstahl camera, directorial and editing genius. It was because of this very debut that Leni Riefenstahl as a director came into notice of Adolf Hitler, who fought actively for unitary power in Germany that year, on the backdrop of a severe economic crisis.

By the very moment Adolf Hitler stood on the balcony in front of the public, as a new German chancellor on January 30, 1933, he had arranged several meetings with a young woman director, discussing her »Das Blaue Licht». Director Leni Riefenstahl believed the promise of a new leader to lead the country to prosperity, but enthusiasm coexisted with the fear of becoming the victim of the destruction of independent German cinema. The newly created Ministry of Propaganda, supervised by Joseph Goebbels, established a full dictate over the whole German film-making processes within a short time. The young creator had a choice to leave her homeland in search of creative freedom or to remain in Germany. Leni Riefenstahl chose the second option, retaining, as time will tell, almost complete freedom of professional self-realization. The fact that Riefenstahl’s documentary films, including “Triumph of the Will” (Triumph des Willens) and ‘Olympia’ were released by an independent film company with her name within a title, is yet amazing, and Helena herself had not put on a Nazi party badge.

Leni Riefenstahl director triumph des willens 1935

 

Behind the scenes of Triumph of the will

In late August 1933, just a few days before the upcoming Congress of the Nazi party in Nuremberg, Leni Riefenstahl was invited by Hitler to discuss her directing role in the filming of the upcoming event. Such a short time of preparation was explained by the prejudice of Minister Goebbels towards a young and, as it seemed to him, insufficiently experienced and not enough controlled female director. Goebbels ignored the request of his Fuhrer to bring Riefenstahl to cover the event. Without the help of the party, Helena, young and full of creative ambitions, shot several kilometers of the film in Nuremberg. Despite her objections and dissatisfaction with the quality of the material, Hitler ordered to edit the film, however, by the means of the Ministry of Propaganda. This little-known film called »Sieg des Glaubens» (Victory of Faith) was completed by December 1, 1933, and the name of Riefenstahl, at her request, was not even mentioned in the credits. Due to the participation of Ernst Rohm, now both ex-national hero and present traitor, all copies of the ‘Victory of faith’ film were subsequently seized, after the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ and the only copy was accidentally discovered and made public only in 1986.

This first kind of failure in the arena of big German cinema only confirmed the determination of Adolf Hitler to entrust Riefenstahl with the creation of a film about the next Party Congress in 1934. The film was supposed to be created entirely by means of the documentary studio of Leni herself, according to the assurances of Hitler, with the full support of power and without the intervention of Goebbels.  The director was also granted to have complete control over the final editing.

Behind the scenes of Triumph of the will

The upcoming Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg 1934 was to become the largest event in German history and attract more than 700,000 guests to this city, ‘saturated’ with the spirit of national history. Given the number of events and their scope, it is surprising that Leni Riefenstahl as a director had only two weeks to prepare for the shooting of the Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens). An impressive crew of 172 people was assembled, who were to use 30 cameras for the film. The cameramen were dressed in the SA form so that they would not stand out from the crowd within the panoramic shots. Hereafter there is a more detailed list of all the people involved in the filming of the Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will.

36 cameramen and assistant camera operators

9 aerial photographers

10 technical staff responsible for the equipment

29 members of the newsreel team who filmed additional material

17 lamp men

2 photographers filming the process of working on the film behind the scenes

26 drivers

37 security guards from the SA, SS, and police

6 office workers.

Triumph of the will what it is about

Even at the recruitment stage, Leni Riefenstahl had to rely on the personal experience and intuition of her cameramen. Before the filming of the Triumph of the Will (1935), the director gave the advice to rely on creative flair and to focus on key events, leaving low-level events out of the frame. Within the following seven intensive days of work, there was no clear coordination between the different parts of the film crew and often the cameramen were left to themselves. Despite the assurances of the full support of the event organizers, Riefenstahl faced a bureaucracy of problems and individual solutions became possible only by means of the personal intervention of Rudolf Hess, deputy Fuhrer, who provided the installation of camera cranes and rails.

With the involvement of an incredible effort, 61 hours of material were filmed from almost all possible angles and perspectives, including airplanes, airship, crane of the fire engine, moving cars. The amazing artistic intimacy of the individual shots who burst into the personal space of the participants of the Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg remained unknown to most of them. The process of editing of the Triumph of the Will took Leni Riefenstahl a full five months to complete the documentary. All the music was recorded within the studio in just three days with only a small part of the speech of Julius Streicher had to be re-recorded to complete the sound design.

The total expenses of filming the Triumph (Triumph des Willens) of the will took 280,000 German marks. The premiere took place on March 28, 1935, within the largest Berlin theater called Ufa-Palast-am-Zoo. It was attended by senior government officials, and for Adolf Hitler himself, this was the first viewing of the finished material. The film distribution was carried out by the UFA film company, which sympathized with the new Nazi government, but was outside its direct control. Although the premieres in the major cities of Germany were successful, ’Triumph of the will’ (Triumph des Willens) did not have a wide resonance among the German people and was not actively used for propaganda purposes the following years. Despite the biased attitude and the unwillingness of Joseph Goebbels to provide active support, he recognized the work of Leni Riefenstahl and on May 1, 1935, awarded the film with the National Film Award.

Triumph des willens shooting proccess

 

Key motives of Triumph of the will

THE PRESENTATION OF HITLER. The presentation of Adolf Hitler is the key narrative motive of the Triumph des Willens movie. Just as in the works of Wagner, who inspired the Nazi movement and the Führer himself, Riefenstahl plays on heroic motives, showing life as a sublime heroic struggle. Adolf Hitler appears to the audience as the MESSIAH, the embodiment of the ancient Germanic myths, which will lead his nation to the greatest glory within the following centuries of world history. The ‘main character’ of the film appears from the clouds, and some shots with him are taken against the sun’s rays or with the moving clouds. Riefenstahl represents this contrived world of the country’s leadership, similar to the mythical Valhalla — the palace, where Hitler and his retinue appear as gods.

The musical accompaniment accompanying Hitler through the scenes of the film is a creative mix of party songs, folk art and explicit inspiration from Richard Wagner. Hitler is shown at the same time as a man of the people, who do not forget to mention this in his speeches, and as a man above the people at the same time. The Fuhrer speaks in the stands, towering above the heads of those present and even his closest party circle. He is represented by hundreds of thousands of participants, and they, in turn, are represented by the Führer. The camera almost always captures Hitler from the bottom up, while the crowds and the Nazi elite most often forms the upper plan.

THE PRESENTATION OF HITLER triumph of the will

 

NATIONAL UNITY. While the key motive of the Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will 1935 movie is the presentation of Hitler as the spiritual and political leader of the German people, the nation itself is represented by a single and coordinated desire to find that very heroic future. Throughout the ‘Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens) film, diverse groups of people appear within the frame. Marching soldiers, SA stormtroopers and SS soldiers. Citizens of the city of Nuremberg are looking slender from the windows. Peasant families who brought the fruits of their labor to the Party Rally. Boys, the color of a nation that will lead it into a bright future. The fighters of the Labor front, who will provide Germany with their future zeal with a shovel in their hands. Even women in a crowd of pedestrians on the streets watching the action.

According to the film, the 1934 Party Congress (known as the Nazi Party Rally) was not a platform for resolving political issues, a referendum or debate, as well as the announcement of specific decisions that may influence the nation in the near future. This second Congress, after Hitler came to power in 1933, is challenged to demonstrate national unity and specifically the approval of the national socialism by the whole nation. This cinematic effect is achieved by a variety of groups of people in the film, their vocal rolls to demonstrate where someone came from. And, of course, the speeches of the party officials, and especially Hitler, are replete with assertions about this very national unity, which, in their opinion, has already become reality.

German national unity with propaganda

 

STRENGTH. This motive of the film is inextricably linked with the presentation of Hitler and the picture of the unity of the nation. On the one hand, we see the Fuhrer, who demonstrates his unquestioning will in front of his subordinates, and the whole nation. No matter how well people know Goering, Goebbels, Hess or Lutz. Hitler stands above them all. Architects such as Albert Speer are making incredible efforts in the design of the territory of party conventions. Images of the eagle and the swastika often dominate the scene in monumental constructions and stone forms, referring the viewer to the ancient myths about heroes and history, such as the best times of the Roman Empire.

Despite the fact, that at the time of the party’s congress in September 1934, the German rearmament program was only at its initial stage, the parade of the armed forces makes the viewer understand that the country will once again have unparalleled military power. Although the military criticized the work of Riefenstahl, as it seemed to them, an insufficiently heroic image of the German army, we see enough scenes that show then weak Wehrmacht in the best light. Even the parade of 52,000 Labor front soldiers symbolizes the future military force, as if their tools are not shovels, but rifles. The multi-thousand parades of the SA and SS fighters are also called upon to demonstrate the inner strength of the system, the party, and Hitler personally, to whom all these formations are faithfully loyal and devoted.

Strength of a german army with Hitler

 

Triumph of the will analysis and summary

PROLOGUE. The introduction of the film is the only example of a voice-over explanation of what is happening with the narrator’s participation. Inscriptions of the documentary narrative appear on the stone slab.

A documentary film about the 1934 Party Congress

Created on the Führer’s personal order.

Movie by Leni Riefenstahl

September 5, 1934

20 years since the beginning of World War

16 years since the beginning of the sufferings of the German people

19 months after the start of the revival of Germany

Adolf Hitler flies to Nuremberg to greet the columns of his loyal followers

Triumph of the will analysis and summary

The party congress of 1934 (Nazi Party Rally), which received the loud designation as the “Congress of Unity and Strength” (Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke), was held from 5 to 10 September 1934. Four main days, from the arrival of Adolf Hitler in Nuremberg to the closing of the event by Rudolf Hess, were included in Triumph of the Will 1935 movie. In addition to the introduction, it is customary to make Triumph of the will analysis by means of the twelve key scenes.

Triumph of the will movie analysis

 

SCENE 1. The opening prologue with inscriptions appearing on a stone, an eagle and a swastika, under the variation of the Nazi ’Horst Wessel’s song, proceeds to an airplane appear within the frame. The viewer does not see the pilot and, especially, his high-ranking passenger. With the means of emotional symbolism, director Leni Riefenstahl brings together the images of the EAGLE, the SWASTIKA and the FUHRER. While the air transport of Hitler dominates over the clouds and sunlight, the installation is replaced by shots of the crowds of people flocking to Nuremberg. The culmination of this scene is the shadow cast by the plane, and symbolically by an eagle and the Führer himself upon the German people, welcoming the followers.

After the shots of the airplane filled with mysticism and symbols, we can observe Hitler himself, facing the public. The visual narration presents us with its main character — the central part of the entire Nuremberg Congress. In a scene when the Fuhrer motorcade moves through the streets of the city of Nuremberg, he is presented as the long-awaited Messiah of the German people, receiving enthusiastic applause, smiles and even flowers from a little girl. Sunlight breaks through his palm raised in the Nazi salute and it seems, even a cat on the windowsill of one of the houses is waiting for a chance to see the leader of the nation.

Whether during the movement of the convoy, the crowd in the background was, for the most part, out of focus of the camera, shifting the focus of presence on Hitler, now we see his soldiers. The new leader of the nation and the future dictator of the Third Reich enters Nuremberg like a CONQUEROR, welcoming by not only ordinary citizens but also his soldiers, on whose loyalty and strength he relies and hopes in the future. In these scenes at the Hotel Deutscher Hof, the effect of the presence of the Fuhrer only increases.

Adolf Hitler comes to Nuremberg to the Nazi Party Rally Congress

 

SCENE 2. Night scene at the same Deutscher Hof hotel, where the crowd of people raging with delight continues to fill the street. The cameras of Leni Riefenstahl depict flags from the light and shadow that appear from the windows of houses. Within the scene, “Triumph of the Will” (Triumph des Willens) movie focuses on another symbol of the national mood, in addition to the swastika and the eagle. Hitler, along with his retinue, listening to a musical performance, standing on the balcony, and the people marching with torches below identify those hundreds of thousands who will, in the following days, take part in the party congress.

Triumph of the will night scene and Hitler at his Deutcher hof hotel

 

SCENE 3. After the solemn meeting of his Fuhrer and the night, the city of Nuremberg awakens. With the music of Richard Wagner, the camera wanders among the monumental buildings, hung out party flags, reflections of ancient architecture in the waters of the river. Then the perspective is replaced by the shots of the tent camp, which received hundreds of thousands of guests arriving at Nuremberg these days. With the awakening of men, their morning routine and mutual assistance, the atmosphere of national unity is growing — one of the key leitmotifs of the Triumph of the Will movie by Leni Riefenstahl. The panorama of men is replaced by youth activity and games, and afterward by good-natured German residents, who express their support for what is happening, not only by their presence but also by the gifts of the harvest. In the following scenes, when Hitler receives gifts from his enthusiastic followers, Riefenstahl conveys the symbolism of their devotion and work in the name of Germany and the Führer personally, which is now becoming one concept. Hitler’s shaking hands symbolizes that he is not only a NATIONAL LEADER but also one of them, a MAN OF THE PEOPLE.

Triumph of the will essay. Scene 3

 

SCENE 4. The fourth scene of the Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will slows down the pace initiated in the introductory part, in favor of a measured atmosphere of political speeches. Each of the speakers of the Nazi party, declaring before his faithful colleagues in the Congress Hall of Nuremberg, expresses his vision of national politics and unity. These speeches do not give voice to the revolutionary ideas, no calls for revolution, and, moreover, no hint of racial and military policy, which Germany will soon embark on.

The first speaker is Rudolf Hess, the Führer’s party deputy. He opens the 6th Party Congress with words of reverence for the deceased president and former field marshal Paule von Hindenburg, who had passed several months earlier. Shots with Hess, dressed in the form of storm troopers, are being contrasted by images of banners, flags, eagles, and swastikas, which covered the walls of the Congress Hall. He is followed by ten more Nazi speakers, each of whom builds his speech on the themes of UNITY, hopes for PROSPERITY and recognition of the national PROGRESS by the means of the NSDAP. It is noteworthy that the final montage has included the performances of the ten Nazi elite speakers not only from this first session but also on the other days of the 6th Party Congress. Here is a list of speakers who spoke after Rudolf Hess.

Adolf Wagner. Gauleiter of Munich and Bavaria. SA Obergruppenführer.

Alfred Rosenberg. Party ideologue. Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the NSDAP

Otto Dietrich. The chief of the press and the press secretary of the Nazi Party.

Fritz Todt. Inspector General for the construction of roads.

Fritz Reinhardt. State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance. Head of the oratory school at the NSDAP

Walther Darré. Minister of Agriculture. Head of the Department of Agrarian Policy of the NSDAP.

Julius Streicher. The publisher of the “Der Sturmer” right-wing magazine. Gauleiter of Franconia

Robert Ley. The leader of the Labor front.

Hans Frank. Minister of Justice

Joseph Goebbels. Minister of Propaganda.

Konstantin Hierl. Head of the Imperial Service of Labor.

Nazi Party rally 1934 speeches by the nazi elite

 

SCENE 5. The speeches of the party leaders within the large building of the Congress hall are followed by the majestic arena of “Zeppelin Field” (Zeppelinwiese), where soldiers of the Imperial Labor Service were called to forming-up. Konstantin Hirl, their functional superior, accompanies Adolf Hitler to the podium and announces that 52,000 Labor service soldiers are awaiting orders from the Führer. Whereas we see shovels in their hands, the general mood of the scene, given the nature of the organization itself (each young man in the future will have to spend half a year in the Imperial Service of Labor), remains militant. Hitler and Hirl are watching the verbal roll call of individual soldiers who came from different parts of Germany: Bavaria, Pomerania, Konigsberg, Silesia, Dresden, the from the bank of the Danube. After honoring the memory of those killed in the Great War (First World War), Hitler assures young people that their service forms the basis of the new Germany and that every German will take the honor of participating in their ranks soon after.

Soldiers of the labor front of the Third Reich

 

SCENE 6. And again the night scene imprints party symbols, banners, flags, and marching rows of stormtroopers with darkness and light. As the dramatic atmosphere grows, Adolf Hitler and the new leader of the SA, Viktor Lutze, both emerge from shadow and light. Within a short speech, Lutze assures the assembled comrades that he remained the same stormtrooper, who had marched with them in the first years of the movement. At the same time, Lutze, the survivor of ‘The Night of Long Knives’, towers above his fellows, and Leni Riefenstahl depicts this superiority of the leader over the crowd. The emphasis is shifted to the dominance of fire, as a symbol of the blood brotherhood of the Nazi stormtroopers, which was mysteriously tempered and historically forged in the fire of revolution. A variety of pyrotechnic elaborate on the mysticism of what is happening.

Hitler speech Triumph des willens 1935

 

SCENE 7. Dark and gloomy night scene with the torch marches of the SA stormtroopers gives way to the German youth meeting full of sunshine. Unlike the ‘old-timers’ of the party, hardened by the revolution, we see blond youths of Aryan appearance, with young fresh faces who had not experienced the trenches of the Great War and street fights during the Nazi party’s struggle for superior power in Germany. After the public enthusiastically welcomes the appearance of Adolf Hitler, Baldur von Schirach, the Fuhrer of the Third Reich youth, introduces Adolf Hitler to his young admirers. The leader of the nation appeals to youth, emphasizing their role in building a great future of prosperity and dignity. It should be noted that Hitler addresses to young men and women, yet we don’t see female faces within the crowd.

 Baldur von Schirach, Adolf Hitler and Hitlerjugend

 

SCENE 8. After the previous scene and thoughts about a bright future and peace, Hitler, Goering, and Field Marshal Blomberg review a military parade in Nuremberg. The shortest scene in propaganda Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl was edited to be short-lived due to the bad weather and the transience of the event itself (not due to some personal anti-military beliefs of Riefenstahl). The contrast between cavalry and soldiers in modern combat vehicles reflects the interwar years and the upcoming large-scale rearmament program. One of the few moments within the film Adolf Hitler smiles and even laughs, watching the armed forces that are still far from gaining power but who had recently brought him a personal oath of allegiance.

Hitler and Blomberg reviews the military parade Zepelinfield

 

SCENE 9. At the end of the same day, 180,000 party members and a quarter of a million guests from all over Germany pack Zeppelin Field, uplifting an incredible amount of 21,000 standards with a swastika into the air, welcoming their Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. The propaganda refers directly to one of its key motives — the personality of Hitler, as the leader of the nation and the Messiah. The Fuhrer dominates the scene and the faceless mass, hidden by darkness and flags, from his high pedestal. We see a wooden eagle behind him. Adolf Hitler appeals to the nation and refers to the PROVIDENCE and FATE, which joined the ranks of the Nazi party for the sake of a bright future for Germany. Hitler ends his speech with an appeal to take an oath from now on every day and every hour to think about Germany, about the Reich, and the people. His last words are ‘’Sieg Heil’’.

While the list of affairs of Hitler at the Party Congress was limited to meetings with the Nazi elite and speeches, Riefenstahl gives us a picture of the leader of the nation. A man who does not just fly on a private plane to Nuremberg settles in a luxury hotel, takes a motorcade and speaks from the podium. Within the movie, he gives the nation a VISION of their future, gives a MEANING to their existence and put OATHS in their hearts and heads. The camera depicts the speaker from various angles, most of which are lower. We rarely see Hitler in full growth within the film. He declares his speeches on a large tribune, towering above the faceless dark public, and the camera looks up at him, snatching a palette of emotions from a pretentious seriousness to the charm of a man of the people. A long distance to the microphones seems to demonstrate that the Führer does not need them in order to loudly reach out to hundreds of thousands of people present.

Hitler speech at the Zepelinfield in Nuremberg 1934

 

SCENE 10. With the onset of the next morning, a mass ceremony gathers at the Luitpold arena, in the western part of the territory of the Nazi Rally in Nuremberg. Ehrenhalle, a memorial hall for soldiers killed in World War I, shapes one side of the filed. On the other one, there is a grand stage for performances decorated by Hitler’s architects (in particular, by young Albert Speer) with three large banners with a swastika, anaglyphs in stone, smaller party flags and eagles.

The camera depicts the panoramic grandeur of 97,000 members of the SA and 11,000 members of the SS in black uniforms gathered here at the calling of their Führer. Only three months earlier, the “Night of the Long Knives” eliminated the danger for Hitler from the stormtroopers, and the Luitpold parade once again testifies to the unity of the nation. While the camera focusing the far foreground, we see three figures crossing the arena from the podium towards the Ehrenhalle memory hall. Despite the fact that the Triumph of the Will camera shoots them only in a distant panoramic perspective, the viewer recognizes Adolf Hitler, SS head Heinrich Himmler and the new head of the SA, Viktor Lutz. The columns of one hundred thousand men form an open path in the middle of the arena, and the three leaders give honor to those killed in the Great War. The final montage includes frames shot by Leni Riefenstahl herself with one of the cameras.

After laying wreaths on the war memorial, Hitler, Himmler, and Lutz slowly return to the podium on the other side of the Luitpold field, and the soldiers turn to face their new location. The leaders of the SA and SS occupy a seat on the sides of the main tribune, where Adolf Hitler reviews a parade of his loyal formations. Lutze appeals to Hitler with the assurance that the members of the SA movement will proudly fulfill any order of their Fuhrer. Then Hitler himself addresses the assembled public. In abstract terms and meaning, he refers to those who unsuccessfully thought to shake the greatness of the SA and speaks about that great shadow that hung over Germany, but was overcome.

Following his speech, Adolf Hitler proceeds to the flag consecration ceremony. He moves along the line of the stormtroopers with his personal standard, known as the blooded flag. This part of the Nazi party legend refers to the failed seizure of power in November 1923, known as the “Beer Putsch”. Hitler personally touches the corner of the standards with his flag, looking into the eyes of every soldier who holds the symbol. The drama of the scene distinguishes these men from the total faceless mass that holds their flags. Shots are then followed by scenes of shots from the guns.

Luitpold arena, Ehrenhalle and The tirumph of the will film documentary

 

SCENE 11. Nazi Rally celebrations again move primary location from the territory of party rallies in the south of the city to the streets of Nuremberg itself. The emphasis remains on Hitler, but no longer as the spiritual leader of the nation and the unquestioning inspirer of the party, but as the MILITARY LEADER. The Fuhrer is once again separated from other people, including the Nazi officials and party comrades, by an open space behind him. Holding his hands close to his chest, Adolf Hitler reviews endless rows of marching admirers, first from a moving car, and then in a state of static contemplation. The camera perspective shows the Nazi elite, including Goering and Goebbels, who are visually ‘under’ Hitler, and the cameraman shot them from the upper point. The Fuhrer always appears above the crowd, and the camera follows his movements and facial expressions bottom-upwards.

Leni Riefenstahl, as a director, did busy at all stages of the production of the Triumph of the Will, commissioned the editing of this parade scene to one of her assistants, but later abandoned his variant in favor of her own one. The director considered the suggested variant too static — not what she wanted to achieve. The final version of the montage involves a constant dynamic change of angles. The cameras not only offer the viewer to watch the parade within the streets of Nuremberg, but to become its participant. The perspective of shooting is constantly changing, from different angles, from windows, at eye level, above and below, from moving machines and crane. Moreover, the composition of the frame itself is also in constant motion.

Hitler reviews a parade of his army, his stormtroopers, members of the Labor Front, SS soldiers, who, by means of an endless march (as the movie wants to show), parade near their leader. Just as at the beginning of the movie, we can observe the residents of Nuremberg and thousands of guests who watch the procession and support it out of the windows, from sidewalks and hills. Remarkably, the frame comes with an artistic contrast between courageous men, members of the procession, and women and civilians, who are watching them with fading and admiration, standing on both sides of the road. Of course, the parade scene symbolizes the UNITY of the nation in the consensual support of what is happening.

Nazi parade in Nuremberg 1934 Leni Riefenstahl

SCENE 12. The final part of the Triumph of the will analysis reflects the final mass meeting and closing ceremony of the NSDP Party Congress in 1934 in Nuremberg. The Eagle dominates the frame as one of the symbols of the Nazi movement and Hitler himself with his retinue of those close to him. Fuhrer moves toward the tribune of a large-scale Luitpoldhalle Congress hall to declare the final speech, which should be the apotheosis of the whole event. We hear a favorite march of the Fuhrer called “Badenweiler Marsch”, and the leader of the movement smiles, but his mimicry also expresses concentration and tension.

Within the closing ceremony, Hitler refers to the old fighters of the movement and makes a link to the times when it was difficult and dangerous to say that you are a national socialist. He proclaims that when there were only seven people in the party, they had already proclaimed two strict principles: loyalty to ideology and the desire to become the only political force in Germany. The Fuhrer proclaims that today best representatives of the nation have come to power, an elite of the country’s political leadership. That the future is in their hands and the decisions of today will live for thousands of years. Also, Adolf Hitler anticipates the unification of the political and military wing, the party and the army for a common great future. Hitler ends with the words: «Hail the National Socialism, Hail Germany.»

Within the final editing of the film, Riefenstahl has decided to emphasize the exceptional nature of the moment and focus the viewer’s attention only on Hitler himself, without using contrasting footage of those present in the hall or party symbols, as we have previously seen. The Fuhrer’s measured unimpassioned speeches earlier at the Congress are not to be emotionally compared to this speech when Hitler appears as a politician and orator, and not so much as a spiritual and military leader. The camera captures the increase of the emotional tension, from the assumed seriousness at the beginning, to appeals to the public at the final stage. Hess, the Führer’s Deputy proclaims the closing of the Congress with the following words: ‘The party is Hitler, Hitler is Germany, and Germany is Hitler. Hail the Victory. Hail the Victory. Hail the Victory’.

The last minute of the Triumph of the will movie originates from the Horst Wessel Nazi hymn, which has ‘opened’ the Triumph of the Will as well. Initially, the music is performed by the orchestra, and then it sounds on the organ until the last shots. We see a panoramic perspective of the Luitpoldhalle Congress hall, then with the image of the swastika, which smoothly turns into an even more monumental version in stone. We see men marching from the bottom left to the top right of the frame, the clouds appear, as it was in the very beginning of the movie. Thus, the picture proclaims the very Nazi and Hitler’s triumph of the will — the goal to which the united nation of Germany will once come, through diligence, struggle and unity, under the leadership of its Fuhrer.

Adolf Hitler closing ceremony triumpf of the will 1934

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