“Triumph of the Will” is the film of note of Nazi propaganda and produced the fairly recently deceased Leni Riefenstahl.
The classic question of this film is, can a movie be good art if it proposes and celebrates the National Socialist and Labor Party’s achievements?
Can one say, Riefenstahl was an innovator, a master of the cinematic medium, and feel good about it when what you’re looking at is – Nazi Propaganda?
I was very much reminded of Paul Berman’s discussion of Death Cult. The Death Cult tells you the meaning of your life and the meaning of your death. Let us put it in a modern perspective - in the Islamist Death Cult your life’s purpose is to be as devout as possible and to undermine the evil work of Western society. The meaning of your death is to re-enter communion with Allah.
In this film we see (in chronological order) the young children being trundled to the press rally, the presentation of the Hitler youth, the young men (of the classless National Socialist society) playing in war games, marching, driving in the weaponized motor cars, and ultimately we see the death procession for Gen. von Hindenburg.
Now this procession is something out of the death of a Caesar. We have draped Nazi flags hanging about burning pyres straight out of Roman-times. Hundred of soldiers in column in austere circumstances - bare, square, blocks of stone….it’s all very overwhelming.
Thus your life is the party and in death the party celebrates you. In Death, there is immortality through the party.
It’s very much worth seeing … and the question I thought about as I saw all these na?ve young men was: How many of these fellows’ blood stained Russian ice, or muddied fertile fields of France?
Very sad for these men, very sad for their victims.
Riefenstahl never apologized for her role in producing this film.