Saturday, October 29, 2011
Triumph of the Will
So, today I watched Triumph of the Will, directed by Leni Riefenstahl in 1935. It's sort of a film class staple - anyone I know who has seen it has watched it in a film class, and everyone else has never heard of it or looked at it. It's a tough sell - it's hard to get people to want to watch Nazi propaganda, no matter how much you talk up the greatness of the movie. This is the classic example of a generally boring and crappy film that is made incredibly well. It is zero fun to watch this movie. It's dull, it's full of Nazis and Hitler giving long speeches and it's generally hard to watch. But it's made so well! The editing and cinematography are great, and I always thought it was probably a pretty effective movie in it's day.
The film doesn't really have a huge plot or story since it's a documentary basically. It follows Hitler and the Nazis as they do stuff like march around and give speeches, and do all kinds of things to make the Nazi party look like a fun time.
It's weird to watch a movie like this now since the whole idea of a propaganda film is sort of lost on a lot of people my age. It's not really like there are movies like this made anymore. It's also hard because it can be tough to look at this objectively. Hitler really isn't an easy subject for most people, and often, the subject matter turns people off before they even check this out. I don't blame them. Like I said, it's not really an exciting film or anything. But it is well made.
It's strange to praise the film for anything, but the director was talented, no doubt about it. The editing is really good - it uses montage about as well as humanly possible. Shots of smiling faces, babies, laughing, cheering, then a shot of Hitler. Obviously, we are to connect the happiness of the people with Hitler. It doesn't really work anymore, but I think it's easy to see that this could have been powerful or inspiring when it came out. Ebert mentions that you probably had to already be a Nazi to like this film, and that might be true. It makes the whole party look huge and impressive and strong, because it shoots these huge gatherings. There is a really effective soundtrack, and lots of cool aerial shots and all sorts of things.
But the movie is also pretty boring. Hitler gives speeches, and while they are well-filmed for the first minute, I don't want to see the whole speech, you know? It's full of marching and talking, and although seems important and masterful overall, I personally feel it's not really important to watch the whole film. We had to watch it all in film classes, but I think we all understood what was well-made and important after about 20 minutes and a few key scenes.I think that you an understand how well made the whole film is without having to struggle through the whole thing. I suggest the same for anyone curious about the movie. Read up a little about it and then check it out - it's always streaming online. It's a good film to check out, because it's historically and cinematically important, but it's also boring and long and full of Nazis, so it's got a lot of negatives. I probably could write more but it's almost 4am, and I think that I got my personal feelings about this film across well enough for today.
Have any thoughts on Triumph of the Will? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Triumph of the Will