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(aka "Triumph des Willens" or "Triumph of the Will" or "Das Dokument vom Reichsparteitag 1934")

directed by Leni Riefenstahl
Germany 1935

Triumph of the Will is one of the most important films ever made. Not because it documents evil--more watchable examples are being made today. And not as a historical example of blind propaganda--those (much shorter) movies are merely laughable now. No, Riefenstahl's masterpiece--and it is a masterpiece, politics aside--combines the strengths of documentary and propaganda into a single, overwhelmingly powerful visual force.
Riefenstahl was hired by the Reich to create an eternal record of the 1934 rally at Nuremberg, and that's exactly what she does. You might not become a Nazi after watching her film, but you will understand too clearly how Germany fell under Hitler's spell. The early crowd scenes remind one of nothing so much as Beatles concert footage (if only their fans were so well behaved!).

Like the fascists it monumentalizes, Triumph of the Will overlooks its own weaknesses--at nearly two hours, the speeches tend to drone on, and the repeated visual motifs are a little over-hypnotic, especially for modern viewers. But the occasional iconic vista (banners lining the streets of Nuremberg, Hitler parting a sea of 200,000 party members standing at attention) will electrify anyone into wakefulness.

Excerpt of Grant Balfour' review located HERE

Propaganda Posters

Theatrical Release: March 28, 1935

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DVD Comparison:

Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Enrique B Chamorro and for the Screen Caps!

(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Synapse Films

Region 0 - NTSC

Connoisseur/Meridian

Region 0 - NTSC

Synapse Films

Region 0 - NTSC

Kino Video
Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:50:20 1:48:56 1:50:24 3:08:18
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.91 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.4 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.19 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.43 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Synapse Films (SE- NEW)

Bitrate:

 Connoisseur / Meridian

Bitrate:

 

Synapse Films (SE-OLD)

 

Bitrate:

 

Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl)

 

Audio German DD 2.0 German DD 2.0 German DD 2.0

German DD 2.0

Subtitles English, none English (non-removable) English, none English, none

Features

Release Information:
Studio: Synapse Films

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

 

Edition Details:
• VOB file dates: 02/13/02
• 4 page insert with Roy Frumkes essay
• Animated Menu
• Commentary by historian Dr. Anthony R. Santoro
• Translated English subtitles by Dr. Santoro & Dr. Peter B. Gushue
• Riefenstahl's 1953 short film Day of Freedom 16:53 min.
• Opening music restored
• Transfer direct from a 35mm master fine grain dupe negative then digitally cleaned up after transfer

DVD Release Date: March 28th, 2006
Keepcase
.

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio:
Connoisseur / Meridian

 

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

 

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date:
August 18th, 2000
Keepcase

Chapters 10  

Release Information:
Studio: Synapse Films

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• VOB file dates: 03/09/01
• 4 page insert
• Static Menu
• Commentary by historian Dr. Anthony R. Santoro
• Newly translated English subtitles by Dr. Santoro & Dr. Peter B. Gushue
• Riefenstahl's 1953 short film Day of Freedom 16:53 min.
• Opening music restored
• Transfer direct from a 35mm master fine grain dupe negative then digitally cleaned up after transfer

DVD Release Date: 04/17/01
Plastic Keepcase

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: Kino Video

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• VOB file dates: 03/25/99
• No insert
• Static Menu
• No extras

 

DVD Release Date: 04/27/99
Snapper case

Chapters 23

 

Comments ADDITION - Synapse DVD - 2006 release: Well, new menus, new cover, white subtitles as opposed to yellow and further digital cleaning appear to be the  differences that I see from the old Synapse release to the new one. You can note that much of the wear and detritus on the previous version is now gone. The new image also may be a shade darker (less boosted) - but it is negligible. Both are pictureboxed and have some contrast boosting - at the time of this writing the old release is $0.20 less expensive - but I prefer white subs and the slightly cleaner picture - so I say 'go for the new release'. Extras, commentary and content are the same.

Gary Tooze

****

First concerning the Synapse DVD;
This version is mostly likely the best quality you will see short of working directly with Riefenstahl's estate. The old Out of Print Connoisseur DVD version was a bootleg because they only had the VHS rights. Connoisseur's DVD had no opening music and they freeze framed out the copyright notice! The Synapse DVD has more picture info on the sides even when compared to the same scenes used in the Leni Riefenstahl documentary. (The documentary seems to use a video transfer for the Triumph segments.) The image quality is clear given the age of the film and the limited sources available. The audio is more than serviceable, it still has occasional pops, but the music and force of the speeches are very clear. The real gem is the commentary track by Dr. Santoro, a professor of history at Christopher Newport University in Virginia (bio HERE) It is filled with fact and perspective. Watching Triumph without the commentary can be difficult even for the best historians, the names to the faces have faded over the years so Dr. Santoro's even tempered tone helps fill in any gaps a viewer many have. Given the fact that Dr. Santoro and Dr. Gushue (fluent in Spanish & German) are credited with doing the English subtitles, I can only assume they are detailed enough. When compared to subtitle examples in the documentary they appear to hold their own or compared to the English script text HERE. Also included is Leni's short 17 min. film Day of Freedom. The short is in far poorer quality and no commentary or subtitles are provided for the viewer. A short critical essay by Roy Frumkes, editor of Films in Review is printed on the insert.

Now concerning the film;
The only simple thing that can be said is that the film captures some of the events during the Nazi political rally in Nuremberg during September 1934. How much is factual documentary vs. planned propaganda vs. directorial artistic skill has been debated since its release and haunted Leni Riefenstahl the rest of her life. Riefenstahl was a young actress turned director in 1932. Hitler's admiration of her mountain adventure film "The Blue Light" and subsequent commission for her to film the Nazi rallies sealed her fate forever. Her first rally film in 1933 "Victory of the Faith" (Der Sieg des Glaubens) was a short 60+ min. piece. It was hastily filmed during the rally and quickly edited. Riefenstahl maintained that artistic control was limited and that Victory is "it was just a few shots I put together, because Hitler wanted it". The film was not used after Hitler had Ernst Rohm, leader of the SA, and his top assistants killed on June 30, 1934. Rohm was prominently shown in the first rally film along with his SA units. The German Army on April 11, 1934 agreed to back Hitler only if he would subordinate the SA to their command, thus Rohm had to go. Victory was not politically useable, nor artistically notable in Riefenstahl's opinion.

When German President Otto Von Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler declared himself both President and Chancellor. Hitler needed more than ever a means to demonstrate that the government, the army and the para-military groups were united under his leadership, thus a new rally film was critical. At this point accounts depart concerning Riefenstahl's desire for making another rally film. First she recommended that Walter Ruttmann (director of Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt, 1927) make the film. His artistic skills admired by Leni conflicted with his Communist views rejected by the Nazi Party. Ruttmann's version of Triumph of the Will was definitely going to be a heavily political piece of propaganda. His film would retell and reenact the historical events from 1923 until the rally that lead to the rise of the Nazi party. Ruttmann's idea did not appeal to the Nazi hierarchy, so Hitler demanded that Riefenstahl make the rally film, how much she wanted to make the film is still debated. She used Walter's opening titles text with all its political baggage, but all of the film's imagery and editing was solely under the direction of Leni. How much control she had over the staging of events complicates the debate of how much Riefenstahl wanted the film to be a documentary vs. a movie. Likewise her chooses in editing also pushes the limits in making a documentary. The events in her film are not the true historical order of events during the party rally (see table below) also her limited selection from the hours of speeches dramatically influences the impression a viewer has. If Riefenstahl's was trying to documents the feelings rather than the actual events, her goal was better achieved with Triumph of the Will.

Was Leni trying to make a piece of cinema that would influence the viewing audience or a piece of propaganda that would influence the voting public? As a film Triumph of the Will can be sweeping and grandiose, its influence has reached as far as Star Wars (1977) and Starship Troopers (1997) See
HERE. As a tool of the Nazi Party, it was played continuously throughout German occupied Europe. "We are convinced" Goebbels wrote, "that films constitute one of the most modern and scientific means of influencing the mass." The problem is that the film is too successful at both goals. For the rest of Riefenstahl life she was held accountable not only for making the film, but also for its influence over the German public. She is most definitely guilty of style over substance, filmic rhythm over realism. Perhaps the German public should be held more accountable of being lead by images they only wanted to see. During 1935 a German audience would see thousands of unemployed youths organized towards a productive end, any other audience would have seen a labor corps that could instantly exchange their shovels for rifles and become immediately mobilized as a large standing army. The same images beautifully captured and crafted by Riefenstahl supports both perspectives.

The next time you watch a political rally, what would someone see watching you?
An independent observer or a willing participant?

 

 - Enrique B Chamorro

 

 





DVD Menus

 

(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC RIGHT)

 

 
 

 



(Synapse Films (SE- old) - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)
 

 

 


Chapter Date   Notes
Overture     Text by Walter Ruttmann, Music by Herbert Windt
Flying to Nuremberg 4-Sep-1934   Cloud shots like The Blue Light, Obj. 3rd Person POV, Rhythmical alternation of object and spectator
Motorcade 4-Sep-1934   Hitler's POV, bodyguards filmed like Arno Breker's statues, close-ups of guards hands, etc "dissection of detail"
Night Rally 4-Sep-1934   Night scene like The White Hell of Piz Palu, night shooting still being developed so LR used aerial searchlights
Youth Encampment 7-Sep-1934   City of Nuremberg scenes like Ruttman's Berlin Symphony of a Great City
Farmer's March ??   Folk music changes to the Nazi anthem when Hitler enters, German's potential wealth available to Hitler
Labor Front Men ??   "Statues on film" used,  everyone snaps to attention with Hitler's "Heil" salute (brings life to the statutes)
Congress Hall of the NSDAP 4 - 8, Sept, 1934   Scene opens with floodlit eagle grasping a swastika at night but the rally started during the morning
    Without footage Streicher's speech was refilmed in Berlin and added, short speeches more to introduce new leaders
Reich Labor Service Review 6-Sep-1934   Labor Corps was Hitler's solution to unemployment, portrays national support for Hitler
Viktor Lutze Addresses the S.A. ??   Lutze being endorsed as new SA chief after Rohm's assassination
Hitler Youth Rally 8-Sep-1934   Sound level builds until Hitler's appearance for dramatic effect, alt. views of Hitler and telephoto close-ups of youths
Reichswehr Review 10-Sep-1934   Footage by LR camera crew spoiled by rain, UFA newsreel footage used instead and edited in by LR
Night Rally of Political Leaders 7-Sep-1934   Out of shape bureaucrats allowed to carry flags, Hitler's speech is the only human visible so the nation is faceless
SA and SS Review 9-Sep-1934   LR uses a special elevator to get an extreme high angle shot similar to long shots in The Blue Light
    Consecration of the flags with the original Nazi "blood flag" creates a quasi-religious Nazi mythology
Grand Review of NSDAP 9-Sep-1934   Unusual camera angles with long to medium then close ups and then in reverse to pull back to Hitler adds interest
Liebstandarte Bodyguard 9-Sep-1934    
Closing Ceremonies 10-Sep-1934   Film culminates in Hitler's speech being the most emotional bring the viewer into the closest connection
NSDAP Hymn     Film ends with marchers dissolving into a cloud backdrop in full circle of the cloud opening becoming quasi-religious

 

 

Screen Captures

 

(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

Hitler's POV used during the motorcade to get the viewer to identify with him.

 

 

 


(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC BOTTOM)

Long shot of motorcade, note no camera in the car with Hitler required to film the POV perspectives suggests multiple "dry runs" of the motorcade for each angle.

 

 

 


(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 Beauty of Nuremberg shown like other "city symphony" films. The rally film looking like other travel log documentaries adds credibility to the film.

 

 

 


(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC BOTTOM)

Labor Corp depicted as being productive and ready to work, an answer to unemployment and the undercurrent as a potential ready army.

 

 

 


(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC BOTTOM)

Roll call of cities ready to join Hitler conveys national unity and projects a level of religious devotion.

 

 

 


(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC BOTTOM)

Thousands of flag bearers matching into the stadium was filled from atop a high elevator.

 

 


(Synapse Films (SE - New) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Connoisseur/Meridian Region 0 - NTSC 2nd vs. Synapse Films (SE - Old) - Region 0 - NTSC 3rd vs. vs. Kino Video (Life of Leni Riefenstahl) - Region 0 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

Editing of Hitler's speech conveys the mounting excitement of the event. His statements are inter-cut with views of the audience rousing approval.

 

 

 


Behind the scenes photos

 

 

Hit Counter


Report Card:

 

Image:

Synapse Films 2006 release

Sound:

tie

Extras: Synapse Films - tie
Menu: Synapse Films 2006 release

 
DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Synapse Films

Region 0 - NTSC

Connoisseur/Meridian

Region 0 - NTSC

Synapse Films

Region 0 - NTSC

Kino Video
Region 0 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA