Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens): Special Edition (1935)

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Released 22-Feb-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Dr. Anthony R. Santoro (Historian)
Short Film-Day Of Freedom (Tag Der Freiheit)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1935
Running Time 106:02 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Leni Riefenstahl
Studio
Distributor
Stomp Visual Starring Adolf Hitler
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Herbert Windt


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The second annual congress of the National Socialist German Workers Party following their ascent to power took place in early September 1934. A couple of months earlier had seen the Night of the Long Knives in which numerous political rivals, real and imagined, had been bloodily purged. It was barely a month since the elderly German president Hindenburg had died and a few weeks since the German people had overwhelmingly voted to merge the offices of Chancellor and President into the single office of Führer.

    Having made a short propaganda film for the Party earlier in the year, Leni Riefenstahl was commissioned to make the official film of the week-long event. Beginning with Hitler's God-like descent from the clouds to a rapturous welcome from the locals, the film is a series of rallies, speeches and parades. In fact it is often boring. But it is not the content that makes this an important film, at least in cinematic terms. Riefenstahl took the style of the documentary film and added propagandistic elements that forged a new style of presentation used to this day.

    Leni Riefenstahl died in 2003 not long after her 101st birthday. While she was never tried as a war criminal due to lack of evidence (and possibly because she was innocent), the evidence of the films she made for the pre-war regime helped end her cinema career with more than half of her long life remaining. That and her extravagant shooting practices which made her career untenable when she no longer had unlimited resources to call upon. Riefenstahl started as a dancer in the Berlin of the 1920s, and her fame in this pursuit led filmmaker Dr Arnold Fanck to recruit her as an actress in what were known as "mountain films", movies set against the backdrop of alpine peaks and often involving dangerous ascents and extreme emotions. In the early 1930s she took the chance to direct her own films, the first of which was The Blue Light, an expressionistic fantasy tale. After the German movie industry was nationalised following the National Socialist takeover, many creative talents in the industry, who either opposed the new regime or were Jewish, found themselves out of a job or having to flee the country. Riefenstahl admitted that she was seduced by the new regime and its leader, and remained to be the only significant filmmaker to appear during the twelve years of National Socialist rule.

    Germany had not adapted well to democracy after the Great War and Hitler cleverly exploited the divisions within German politics. For years there had been ill-concealed attempts by senior political figures to move towards a restoration of an authoritarian regime, with many longing for the more certain days of the monarchy. By cultivating both nationalist and socialist ideals in his party, Hitler managed to present himself as a new Kaiser, and part of his appeal was the sense of security that having decisive leadership would bring. Similarly, Roosevelt in the United States owed much of his power base to the perception that he was the strongest choice available. The National Socialists took this to the logical extreme of suggesting that their leader was a man of destiny, a god-like figure who would be the saviour of Germany.

    And so the film of the Nuremberg Rally of 1934 presents Hitler as an almost mythical being, worshipped as a god by his followers. At the beginning he descends from the clouds in his aeroplane, and in almost every shot in which he appears he is shown as larger than the people around him. Each of a series of rallies and parades presents Hitler as the focal point. More than seventy years later and with the benefit of hindsight it is difficult to fathom what the attraction was. Certainly in 1934 few people could have had an inkling of what was in store for Germany and the peoples of Europe, and possibly only a handful would have dreamt of the scale of the impending disaster. Many have condemned Riefenstahl for the films that she made during the 1930s, but realistically she is barely more culpable than most Germans who supported the regime. Part of the reason for the vitriol directed at her over the last 60 years of her life was that she did not beg for forgiveness for her support of and involvement in the Third Reich.

    Despite the personal animosity displayed towards Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will continues to be shown around the world and released in various video formats. While there is always an interest in trying to work out how the Nazi mind ticked, and to get an insight into Hitler the man (which you do not get here), the film has an appeal to the neo-fascists and proto-Nazis of this world which has kept it in publication. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, with its celebration of the Ku Klux Klan, is popular in the same circles for much the same reasons. Those of us who do not hold the same beliefs can still be impressed by the power of the imagery and the technical wizardry of Riefenstahl and her cinematographer Sepp Allgeier.

    Triumph of the Will is fascinating viewing, but viewers will be forgiven for fast forwarding through some sections. But if you think this film is tedious, try watching her next film, Olympia, the official film of the 1936 Olympics, in one sitting.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, the original being 1.37:1. The opening credits are window-boxed, but the rest of the film is presented full screen.

    While the case indicates that the transfer is taken from a fine grain print, that print was obviously not freshly taken from the original negative, which probably no longer exists anyway. The print looks like it has seen better days, but at least it is sharp and detailed. In black and white, the film has reasonable contrast levels although it tends to be very dark in shadows.

    There are many film artefacts, from reel change markings to splice marks, flecks, dirt, moisture damage and so on. There is considerable flicker and plenty of grain. However the fact that the transfer is taken from a source close to the original negative means that these artefacts are not as disturbing as they would be usually.

    Optional subtitles are available in English in white text. All of the dialogue is translated, and these subtitles are well-timed and easy to read. However, this subtitle stream also includes captions identifying the events and the people on screen. While this is handy, it doesn't seem necessary to have Goebbels' or Hess' names flash up just about every time they appear on screen. Some of these subtitles appear so briefly on screen that they are nearly impossible to read.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with a barely perceptible layer change placed at 62:28.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The main audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and is of course in German throughout.

    The soundtrack comes across clearly despite showing its age. There are crackles, hiss and distortion throughout the film. The audio sounds quite thin and there is no substantial bass to it, though it is not unpleasant to listen to. Dialogue seems to be clear.

    The score consists mainly of marching songs and patriotic music. There are two pieces from Wagner: when the film shows early morning in Nuremberg we hear the prelude to Act III of Die Meistersinger, which depicts...morning in Nuremberg (in a happier time). Shortly thereafter there is a brief fanfare taken from Lohengrin. At the end of the movie we get to hear the Horst Wessel Song, the de facto National Anthem.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Audio from the soundtrack.

Audio Commentary-Dr. Anthony R. Santoro (Historian)

    An audio commentary by an American academic that is both enlightening and irritating. He has a pleasant enough speaking voice but spends too much time telling us what is happening on screen, and which we can plainly see for ourselves. By contrast Santoro does give some background information about the ceremonies and the people that is interesting. One factual error though, in that he states that Rudolf Hess died in Spandau at the age of 87. He was 93.

Short Film-Day Of Freedom (Tag Der Freiheit) (16:14)

    This is a film made for the Wehrmacht in 1935. Directed by Riefenstahl, it shows military manoeuvres and other activities. There is some brief dialogue in the form of shouted commands, but there are no subtitles. The absence of subtitles, while regrettable, is not an issue. Unfortunately the contrast and digital transfer have led to some irritating effects, such as the sky being rendered as completely and unnaturally white in some shots.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There have been numerous releases of this film overseas. Synapse Films have released two editions in Region 1, and the second of these which featured a new transfer of the film appears to be the source for the Region 4. It contains the same extras. The earlier release included an audio commentary on the short film according to one review but is not mentioned in another.

    There have been at least two editions in the UK, one of which is Region 2 and the other of which is an All Regions disc. The latter was from Moonstone and featured no extras. The former included newsreel footage of National Socialist rallies and a booklet.

    It is reported on one DVD comparison website that the Region 2 releases may have a longer running time than the Region 1. I have not been able to source any reviews of the Region 2 issues to clarify this. I saw the film theatrically a number of years ago but do not recall any sequences that might be missing from the Region 4 release.

    Unless you want to avoid PAL speed-up, there is little reason not to choose the Region 4 release.

Summary

    Not a film that should be watched purely for entertainment purposes, but probably the best propaganda film ever made.

    The video quality is very good though there are plenty of film artefacts.

    The audio quality is acceptable.

    A mixed bag of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, April 14, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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NTSC? - Darth Lavender REPLY POSTED