on June 3, 2004
The Synapse DVD Special Edition surpassed all expectations. I had Triumph of the Will on video prior to obtaining this DVD and the video's visual and audio quality was poor. By contrast, this DVD is visually very crisp and sharp and the audio quality is fine The DVD appears to be produced from an excellent original film print. I've seen another DVD of TOTW produced by different company, and its quality was the same as the video version :substandard. Make sure you get the Synapse version. This Special Edition is good as it gets.
on January 19, 2004
The Nazi regime is over now, but this 1934 film remains and is available on DVD. It was commissioned by Adolph Hitler himself and written and directed by Leni Riefenstal, then only 32 years old. It's a full two-hours and celebrates and glorifies the Third Reich. The film techniques are excellent, given the technology of the time. I understand she used 30 cameras, more than a hundred crewmembers and 61 hours of film. There are shots obviously taken from a helicopter with great views of the clouds. There are distant shots that take in more than 200,000 people. And close-ups that show the love and adoration that the populace felt for Hitler, who had just become the dictator the year before. I
Mostly, there are crowd scenes and speeches by Hitler himself as well as Goebbels, Goring, Hess, Himmler and other villains of the Nazi era which was then a rising political movement. It was several years before the war machine was fully in place as the Nazis didn't march into Poland until 1939. So, at the time the film was made, there was nothing but joy, especially since just a few years prior to that Germany was immersed in a depression that was so bad that people were paid twice a day because the value of money changed from hour to hour that the price of a loaf of bread could double from morning to afternoon.
It's an eerie feeling to sit in the comfort of my rocking chair and travel seven decades back in time. The young people in the Hitler Youth movement reminded me of boy scouts as I watched them horse around and splash water on each other like any other high-spirited teenagers. The small children are all smiling as their parents hold them up to catch a glimpse of Hitler. And the adults themselves seems to be in an ecstatic trance as they raise their arms in a "Heil Hitler" salute. I couldn't help but think if any of them are still alive, and how deceived they must be about the early promise of their youth, and how much devastation it caused for everyone.
Then there were the speeches, always with the utmost theatrical fervor. I read the subtitles carefully. What was Hitler and the others really saying? Yes, they spoke of glory. But they also spoke of themselves as being the party of peace and being told by God that this was their destiny. Surprisingly too, they all seemed to believe it. I had also expected to see more anti-Semitism in their speeches. Jews were never mentioned and although there was some reference to racial purity, it didn't seem to be the leading issue in 1934.
Basically, the film was one big show of pageantry and pep rally for what would come later. Looking back on in in 2003, it gives me the chills.
For students of history, this is an important film. Others will be horrified. And many will be bored as there are no actors and no plot except to glorify their leader.
on May 4, 2001
TRIUMPH OF THE WILL has long been viewed through a dual perspective: It is both reviled by many for its glorification of Hitler, and at the same time praised for the masterful work of its director, the legendary Leni Riefenstahl (who at the time of this writing is still alive...I think she's over 100 by now). The truth is, it is all of that and more - a highly memorable, fascinating experience on several levels:
1. Despite the subject matter, it must be acknowledged that this film does what it was made to do marvelously well: It is a masterpiece of the art of propaganda...somethng that is practiced every day by all governments, in advertising, and in all political campaigns - but never better than this. The film does an amazing job of tapping deep into the German psyche, with scenes of Nuremburg, youth, etc., and allusions to great Germans of the past, all designed to tug at the "volkish" national sentiment, then deftly superimposed with images of Hitler. Very crafty, but no different than what we see every day in our media-saturated world.
2. As a study of the early the Nazi era, it is invaluable. Regardless of what happened in the years that followed, TRIUMPH needs to be viewed as a statement of its own era, when none of the horrors had yet happened and many around the world still referred to the Nazi regime (which was then consolidating power and trying to reach the hearts and minds of the people) as "the German renaissance". The commentary track adds a fascinating "what happened to that Nazi?" perspective.
3. This film has become unbelievably influential (possibly because it is still required viewing in film schools); it is perhaps second only to THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN as the most visually quoted film in hstory. Just a few examples: The closing scene in STAR WARS, "Be Prepared" from THE LION KING, and especially the entrance of Commodus into Rome from GLADIATOR are all lifted directly from visuals in TRIUMPH. Even more common is the visual "homage" that directors sometimes subtly insert, such as the woman being tossed in the air from THE BIG LEBOWSKI (remember the kid at the beginning of TRIUMPH)? The list goes on and on.
One certainly does not need to sympathize with the Nazis to appreciate this film. In fact, it is precisely because of what became of them that makes this early look so fascinating. Still, I would not call this "entertainment"; rather, this is a piece to study and analyze. Recommended for any student of history, sociology, mass media, or film.
on June 20, 2003
I object to the placing of the reviews under different/wrong DVD releases! Now you are looking at the Moonstone release. It does not contain a booklet. It is a PAL version. It is poor quality picture, only slightly better than VHS. It also contains the short film Tag der Freiheit. The sound, however, is quite good!
It is hard to choose, sometimes, but not with Triumph des Willens; nothing beats the Synapse special edition with commentary track! The picture and sound is probably better than you'll ever see.
on April 28, 2004
Riefenstahl's documentary made for Adolf Hitler and the NAZI party in the early 1930's. The documentary primarily covers the Nuremburg rallies and the activities that surrounded these events. Again, this is a propaganda film and was designed to stir popular sentiment and political empathy for the infamous political party.
If one understands the socio-political climate of Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s, one can clearly see what sentiments the film seeks to evoke and hence recognize its significance and brilliant execution. For example, Germany was in a state of shambles because of the global economic depression and many Germans feared an inevitable collapse to anarchy or Bolshevism. The opening scene starts with a Wagnerian piece and shows Hitler in a plane peering down from high above the clouds as he arrives for the rally. The scene sought to reassure a worried public that The Fuhrer was omnipotent, omniscient, and was coming down from the heavens to save a troubled nation in a godlike fashion. When he arrives at the stadium, Hitler is shown walking with his SA escort out of the crowd and towards the podium instead from behind the podium to look down at the crowd; this was to instill the notion that Hitler wasn't just another Berlin bureaucrat from the old failed Weimar Republic coming to talk down to a broken people; it was done to evoke the sense that he was a man of the people for the peole: selflessly arising out of a worried crowd of fellow Germans to lead them to a better and safer future. This particular scene was so influential in film that George Lucas adapted it (and many other scenes) for the closing scene to the original Star Wars when Luke, Han, and Chewy are decorated by Lea. Other scenes of happy German blonde and blue-eyed youths or common laborers performing paramilitary/social tasks were intended to evoke a proud sense of unity, purpose, and safety amongst all true German "volk" in these troubled times. In the background, the narrative voice recites how all German women should should bear many children for the Fatherland; how men should unite for the Fatherland and not Godless Bolshevism; how youths should work to better their nation; etc., etc.
The mass communication techniques of Riefenstahl and Goebbels are still used today by virtually every modern government and media firm. This film is important not only as a histiorical tool in understanding the rise of Nazism and the dynamics of facism, it is a very important landmark in the development of film, mass entertainment and mass communication in general. I strongly believe that every person who seeks to better understand their world and media see this film at least once and study it.
on September 8, 2012
This film was commissioned by the Nazi leadership in order to project the images of absolute power represented by a resurgent Germany . It is extraordinary because it broke new ground in the art of political propaganda. Much of the current structure of modern political advertising and the organization of political events such as conventions have their roots in this film. The film itself is dated and from time to time repetitive but in the era and environment in which it was created it is amazing. I certainly recommend it to those interested in the events of Europe between the wars and anyone interested in the use of visual images in influencing societal behavior.
on January 8, 2004
Regardless of the theme and propaganda aspect, Triump of the Will is one of the most important movies ever filmed. It documents the 6th Reich Party Congress that was held in Nuremburg in 1934, and subsequently was awarded the Gold Medal in Venice in 1935, and the Gold Medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937. The crowning glory for Leni Riefenstahl, with the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, her association with the movie and several other Nazi propaganda films nearly destroyed. Up until her death in September 2003, at the age of 101, she vehemently downplayed her association with the Nazis, and attempted to rebuild her reputation through still photography. The nature of her involvement with the Nazis will never be fully known, so it can never be known for certain whether this film was, as Riefenstahl claims, a compromise so that she could continue to exercise her creativity. Whatever the case, Triump of the Will is an important movie, both in terms of its influence on cinematography, and as a historical document. It is a definite must-see for anyone who wants to understand the Nazis, as it epitomizes the regime's skilled use of propaganda to gain and maintain power.
on June 17, 2003
To start off, I did not enjoy Triumph of the Will. That said, you'll notice I gave it 5 stars. That is because it deserves nothing less. While not exciting or invigorating, for propaganda, it is perfection.
While boring, it cannot help but leave the viewer in awe while watching Hitler walk calmly through 250,000 assembled soldiers. Even when watching him speak to 100,000 laborers, one cannot help but be ensnared by the sheer greatness of this majestic work of filmmaking.
Triumph of the Will is not a good movie, yet at the same time it is a great movie, worthy of respect, a film that everyone should see at least once, boring or not, lest we forget the past and are doomed to repeat it. With this film as evidence, there can be no doubt that we were warned that war was coming, and did nothing. For that we suffered the consequences. This film should stand as evidence that we should never again be so blind as to assume that such a display could be considered anything less than a precursor to combat.
While I did not enjoy this film, I still must highly recommend it to anyone with any interest whatsoever in history, politics, or the simple truth. It might be called offensive, and it might be called grand. In truth, it is both and at the same time far, far more. Watch, and be amazed.
on May 18, 2003
This is one of the most difficult reviews I have written because of my ambivalent feelings. Note that this review applies to the DVD version only, narrated by Anthony R. Santoro.
Having two previous versions, one on Betamax and the other on VHS, I was looking forward to the ultimate purity of DVD as the final "keeper" version. Wow!...was I disappointed. The original film itself would rate a solid five stars for its impact, even today. Rifenstahl was (is) a cinematic genius. This film explains forcefully the charisma of Adolpk Hitler and the mesmerizing effect he had on all who were in his presence. Like all good actors, he practiced gestures and words in front of a mirror, and the results can be seen in this film. In returning the Nazi salute, note the way he holds his hand, not straight forward with unbent hand and fingers, but with arm and hand up and backward as if carruing a tray of food.
The viewer must not expect to be entertained by this film in the usual manner. This film is a real treat for those with some cinematic knowledge and the revolutionary camera techniques it introduced. Other reviewers have covered its merits better and more eloquently than I. My problem is totally with the narration, which ruins it for me.
Anthony Santoro needs a few graduate courses in German before attempting anything like this again. More at fault are the producers who thought narration would improve it. As pointed out by another reviewer, Santoro can't even pronounce NAZI correctly. After a few repititions I wanted to switch the sound off altogether. And who decided this serious film would be a good venue for attempts at unfunny jokes?
This could have been a solid five star version but I cut it to three because of the inappropriate narration. Fortunately the film itself was still strong enough to rate three stars in spite of the narration.
My advice is to get a good quality unnarrated VHS and wait for a DVD that is done properly. Sorry folks, but these are my feelings about this DVD edition. The film is great but the narration ruins it,....at least for me. I was disappointed.
on February 22, 2003
This is a fascinating film - a rare chance to see the Nazi Party through their eyes. Sometimes the film drags and is boring with such things as endless miles of parading Nazis and long-winded speeches, etc, but overall, this film will fascinate anyone interested in history.
In some ways I think these guys are brilliant and in other ways, I think they're just bizarre (the Nazi Party leaders). Their obsession with creating pseudo-traditionalism is just weird to me, I just don't "get it". To tear down old religeons and customs to fabricate new phony made-up ones just seems silly to me. These were some strange birds, no doubt, and this film exposes a lot of that strange mentality going-on behind the scenes in that party.
It's a good film and a great DVD with a wonderful commentary soundtrack, which makes watching this film like sitting through a home movie. The narrator explains what you are looking at wonderfully - this guy knows his stuff and unless you're an expert, you'll learn a lot watching this film with the commentary on. Get this DVD, its a great historical piece and I highly recommend it to everyone.