Triumph of The Will Analysis: Leni Riefenstahl’s landmark documentary

Opening to Triumph of the Will
Opening to Triumph of the Will


Triumph of the Will opens with the camera panning down on ant-sized people directly below. The camera swings down below until the people are barely visible and seen to be in a rally. Hitler shortly arrives at the airport of Nuremberg. People, gathered in a huge mob, are there to catch a glimpse of him. The looks on their faces are ecstatic. A Nazi Party Congress soon follows that shows attendees lined up for it. The background score used is Richard Wagner’s composition. According to the annals of history, Wagner is the favorite composer of Hitler. Hitler idolizes Wagner’s music. Nazi leaders arrive at the rally held at the Luitpold Arena. Nazis introduce themselves with powerful speeches.

Another rally takes place the next day at the ground. The men involved are laborers and not a part of the army. Hitler makes a speech for laborers. The speech involves praising their work in building Germany in both spirituality and physicality.

The next event is a Storm Detachment Parade. The leader Viktor Lutze speaks under torchlight and that gives him a supernatural presence. The setting is uplifted to something more surreal according to this.

Day three begins with a rally on the parade ground. The rally is by Hitler Youth. In the closing of the rally more Nazi members join introducing more officials. It closes with a rousing speech where Hitler declares that there are no strata in the Nazi Party and all are equal.

On the closing day, Lutze and Hitler both deliver speeches addressing past achievements. Triumph of the Will ends with a chanting of the crowd to ‘Sieg Heil’ and ends with Horst-Wessel-Lied.

People rejoice as Hitler arrives at the airport of Nuremberg. Triumph of the Will
People rejoice as Hitler arrives at the airport of Nuremberg. Triumph of the Will

A Propaganda Film

The period before World War II and post of it saw the production of a number of propaganda films. The sole purpose was to infiltrate the minds of the people and curb the social attention directly alleviating the political and social activity of the nation. Triumph of the Will is a prime example. Post-release the film was greatly honored by the European public, and several accolades were made towards it.
Riefenstahl minutely depicts the Nazi party at peak power. It was the Propaganda Ministry that filmed this documentary in 1934.

Leni Riefenstahl was considered to be one of the greatest directors of the German film industry. She was actively involved in a number of adventure-based productions during 1920s and the beginning of 1930. Riefenstahl efficiently depicted roles of power that displayed strength and commandment with probable inspirations she drew from life.

The film documents the Sixth Nuremberg party congress. Riefenstahl had initially intended to record the very early days of NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), in order to maintain an archive for the future generations. This would have been a direct reference for them to look back onto the beginning of the Third Reich. The film instead takes another completely oblique perspective. It exhibits Hitler’s oratory power with the combination of his ability to draw in crowds with his beliefs.

Troops march in a meticulous fashion on Hitler's arrival. Triumph of the Will
Troops march in a meticulous fashion on Hitler’s arrival. Triumph of the Will

Triumph of the Will -subtle criticisms

Stylistically speaking, this documentary follows a linear approach. The director acts as an agent of truth-telling. Triumph of the Will depicts the dominant scenario of Germany during 1934-35. The documentary showcases the speeches of Hitler but leaves us wanting more. For the larger part, this documentary stays focused on people of power. Single events are highlighted more prominently than the moments leading up to them. In a way, the Nuremberg rally shows a gathering of thousands but it restrains from capturing any part of their journey to the place.

The film does not document how the gathering fed themselves or waited till the arrival of the speakers. The panning of the camera shows hundreds in rigid formation. The drill that led to this immaculate shot is absent. No figure is shown to bypass into a sideline. Such is the rigidity modulus that the greatness of this movie stands upon.

Mechanical composure of groups void of any physical emotion
Mechanical composure of groups void of any physical emotion

Display of strength in Triumph of the Will

Mass individuality is of little importance in the narrative manner of Triumph of The Will as is evident of the times showcased. The meta-structure of the film lies in its title itself. Triumph of the Will depicts the undying spirit of the people of Germany post World War I. Amidst the masses, instances reveal themselves as occasional nods with little to no speaking. Undoubtedly, Hitler is a literal god-like figure throughout the movie. Hitler’s undisputed charisma is evident in Reifenstahl’s approach to filmmaking. This is accomplished by his injection-like speeches through which he never perspires. It is as if he was made to pose for the immaculate shots and his tired physique was intentionally left out of the frames.

Hitler's hammering speech of influence at the closing of Triumph of the Will
Hitler’s hammering speech of influence at the closing of Triumph of the Will


Triumph of The Will is perhaps the best film on propaganda there is. The drama and aura encapsulated by Reifenstahl do not in any way become a subject of scrutiny. It cannot be denied by the regular viewer. The ending of the movie has everyone singing the Horst Wessel song. The gathering also does the infamous right-arm salute and one may see that Hiter has a curling hand gesture that emanates a sense of satisfaction in this deed. The film is a pure spectacle of power and influence; a definitive watch for any “Nazinthusiast”.

Susmit Basu

From a young age Susmit has held a passion for storytelling, movies and literature. He believes cinema is the beginning of thought and a perfect tool for sociocultural change. Here at Cinema Monogatari he analyses and dissects all that passes under his panoramic vision.

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