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Marching in step with evil

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last evening, CineVerse took a chilling look at the famous propaganda movie "Triumph of the Will." Here are highlights at our group discussion:



WHAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT TRIUMPH OF THE WILL? WERE YOU EXPECTING SOMETHING DIFFERENT OF THIS MOVIE?
·       The crowds at the Nuremburg rally are not all comprised of rifle-wielding soldiers; many are simply citizens carrying shovels, for example
·       No one, including Hitler, makes any overt anti-semitic statements
·       The emphasis is on images over ideas, emotion over action; there really isn’t any “plot” or easily followed linear or narrative structure
·       For these and other reasons, the film is actually considered by many to be quite dull and unimaginative
·       Arguably, it’s not even that dangerous of a film to show to new generations, as it’s likely not very manipulative or persuasive if you’re not already a convert to Nazi ideology

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TECHNIQUES THAT RIEFENSTAHL USES TO MAKE AN EFFECTIVE PROPAGANDA FILM?
·       Long focus lenses to produce a distorted view
·       Moving cameras
·       High angle perspectives from cameras placed very high up
·       Aerial photography
·       Marrying music to the picture in an emotionally effective way, which arguably hadn’t been done to this degree before in film

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THEMES BEING PUSHED UPON THE VIEWER AND THE GERMAN PEOPLE WHO FIRST SAW THIS MOVIE?
·       Religion: Hitler is cast as a messianic deity, a godlike figure who descends from the skies and compares the Nazil party to a holy order
·       Unity and harmony: we see images of uniformity, cleanliness, symmetry, order, perfect alignment
·       Glory and pride: the pride with which the native people worship and adore their leader and love their country, as well as the twisted pride that Hitler espouses, which calls for a purification of the German people which means an extermination of minorities, the sick, frail and feeble.
·       Power: Hitler and his people yearn for the rebirth of Germany as a major world power; we see 700,000 of his worshippers amassed in a mass demonstration of that power

IS THIS FILM A DOCUMENTARY, A PROPAGANDA FILM, OR BOTH?
·       Riefenstahl claims that she was na├»ve about the Nazis when she made it and had no clue as to what Hitler would eventually do; she claims that she was asked to “document” these events as historical events that she didn’t pre-plan or manipulate in any way
·       Yet, there is evidence that film scholars have proposed that some of the footage may have been staged and shot later, after the rallies, and spliced in to look like it was happening live; the massive stadiums were designed to accommodate special cameras
·       It becomes obvious that this movie is evidence of the power of editing: that reconstructing shots and manipulating footage is the key to effective propaganda.
·       As one reviewer stated: this film proves the theory that the most powerful tool of thought control, which is the goal of totalitarian power, is the cinema.
·       It’s almost impossible for a documentary, even a true “fly on the wall” impartially intended one, to be truly objective; every film, even the most neutral documentaries, has an agenda, a point of view, and a tone.

DO YOU THINK THIS FILM IS STILL DANGEROUS? SHOULD IT BE SHOWN IN CLASSROOMS TO AGE-APPROPRIATE CHILDREN? SHOULD IT BE BANNED?

WHAT OTHER MOVIES DOES TRIUMPH OF THE WILL REMIND YOU OF?
·       D.W. Griffith’s infamously racist but cinematically pioneering “Birth of a Nation”
·       The Star Wars films, in their depiction of the evil Empire and its Emperor commanding countless stormtroopers and soldiers
·       The Great Dictator, Chaplin’s parody of Hitler, which actually uses some of this film’s footage
·       “Woodstock”, the acclaimed documentary of the Woodstock rock music festival, another documentary that captures a large mass of followers
·       Busby Berkely musicals, which also choreographed large crowds of people/performers moving in rhythmic unison and creating symmetrical and geometrically balanced shapes and images
·       The films of Sergei Eisenstein, who espoused the socialist and Soviet views of Lenin in a series of propagandistic films like Strike! and Battleship Potemkin

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