posts 16 - 26 of 26
Dak Prescott
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 8

The Power of Propaganda: Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935)

Triumph of the Will was not effective as a tool of propaganda because it revitalized German nationalism after World War I.During the First World War, people all over Europe were flooded with propaganda stating their army was the strongest. However, the Germans lost the war; this put a large dent in national pride, and for the Germans, they could not heal the cognitive dissonance between their country being the best yet losing the war. As stated by Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will used “preliterate symbolic imagery and vague patriotic appeals to address the emotional concerns of the populace.” For Aryian Germans, remind them of the national pride brought about at the start of the Great War and associate the Nazis with that feeling of jubilation. On the other hand, non-Aryan Germans have been frightened by these images, because with this nationalism came a greater need to place blame for WWI on someone other than Aryan Germans. Scapegoating the Jewish people was needed to heal the cognitive dissonance that nationalism brought about. Germans could need a reason they lost the war besides the fact they were outmatched, because if they were outmatched, then their patriotism and nationalism would be foolish.

Leni Riefenstahl holds an immense amount of responsibility for what the Nazis did because she was one of the most important figures in getting their message out. She did not only complete the job she was commissioned to do; she went above and beyond, creating the most revolutionary and influential films of all time for the expressed purpose of creating nationalism and spreading fascism. Riefenstahl was clearly a very smart woman; therefore, she could not have been ignorant of Hilters views of minority groups, especially Jewish people. At that point in his rule, it was public knowledge that Hiliter was running on a platform of fascism, nationalism, and anti-Semitism. Yet she not only made the film but also created the most effective piece of propaganda of all time. Despite her claims, there is no way that she did not internalize Hilters beliefs at the time because she followed him around and took video of these rallies for six months. She had more access to Hilter than almost anyone, and there is no way she did not see what was coming.

Riefenstahl should always be remembered in concert with her work for the Nazi party, since it was impossible to be “apolitical” as a vehicle for propaganda. In the 1930s, people were either complacent or enemies of Hilter, and since Leni Riefenstachl was not an enemy of Hilter, she was at the very least complacent in her actions. Beyond just allowing Hilter’s action, the movie Triumph of the Will actively furthered Hilter’s influence in Germany. It is completely naive of Riefenstahl to expect people to believe that she had nothing to do with Hiliter’s actions, since she was the main reason he had support. Many people in Germany said that they were not supportive of Hiliter until they saw Triumph of the Will. Therefore, Riefenstahl is directly responsible for Hiliter's control, power, and actions.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

The Power of Propoganda: Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will

In my opinion, an artist shouldn't be held accountable for the outcomes of the response they cause or for the reaction they cause. Art is art, and depending on who is viewing it, it may be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Everyone has a different opinion, therefore it's incredibly hard to predict what type of response people will have. If a negative consequence wasn't made clear or inferred, the artist shouldn't be held responsible for it. This holds true for Leni Riefenstahl as well. Despite the belief that Riefenstahl should suffer some sort of punishment for her role in "persuading" people to back the Nazi regime, as an artist, all she was attempting to do was showcase the "beauty" and grandeur of the work for which she was compensated.

For its period, Triumph of the Will might be regarded as a classic of film. It appeared to be the latest major event that you wouldn't want to miss out on because of its captivating sights and sizable people. Leni had two cameras since she was aware of this. To gradually demonstrate to the audience how enormous and overpowering the crowd was—and how it was still getting bigger—one camera was mounted atop a pole that swung up and down. The purpose of the other camera was to provide the audience with an insider's perspective of the event. She took sure to show EVERY single person who attended the events, which included a wide variety of people. spanning from actual infants to elderly individuals. Her audience is left wondering, "If there's a baby here, why am I not?" In any case, Riefenstahl aimed to communicate the "surreal" and unique sensation of simply having the "privilege" and opportunity to be present. The purpose of the video was to highlight Hitler's influence and demonstrate to the public his immense authority as a result of his large following.

Given her statements regarding the reasons behind her decision to make the movie and her knowledge of the events that followed, I believe that Riefenstahl is well aware of her role in bolstering Hitler's fan base, but she is also defending her artistic integrity and attempting to absolve herself of blame due to the severity of the outcome. We now know that Riefenstahl wrote to Hitler in a telegram after the Nazis captured Paris in 1940, saying, "Your deeds exceed the power of human imagination," despite her claims that she did not support the Nazis and that she still does in the clip from the movie The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl that we watched in class. They have never been matched in human history. How can the German people ever express gratitude to you? This is essentially her endorsing Hitler, and the point I'm trying to make is that this is one of the statements she makes that can contribute to the belief held by many that she bears some of the blame for the events of the Holocaust and the Nazi era. If people believed that the director and editor of this spectacular film was a supporter of Hitler, it would only encourage people more to also become a supporter.

Because she knew exactly what she was doing when she made Hitler appear so grandeur, she is accountable for the content of the movie as well as its overall impact. However, she shouldn't really be punished because she isn't really to blame for what transpired afterwards. If anything, she is already experiencing mental pain and shame since she knows that, even though she was only doing what was asked of her, she played a minor part in this. However, I agree with JnjerAle that she should have at least offered an apology for the controversy her movie created, as it did do a great deal of harm. But in this instance, it would probably be more accurate to characterize her as an unaware enabler because, despite everything, she DID produce the movie that launched the careers of all of his fans.

Regarding whether or not Riefenstahl is at fault, one may debate this point endlessly, but ultimately, interpretation and opinion are what matter. It is ultimately true that all she did was follow instructions to make a decent picture, but that does not take into account the consequences of what she did.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 12

Humans have been graced with the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Whether one claims to have some sort of sixth sense, sight is the most important. What we see influences our thoughts and our decisions. When you watch a scary movie with many jumpscares, you end up with nightmares. When you watch a sad movie, your mood changes with it. What our eyes take in changes who we are and how we react to certain situations. Propaganda attacks this powerful sense and uses it against us. When you think about it, all film is a form of propaganda in how it promotes a certain perspective. Leni Riefenstahl was paid to make propaganda that would ideally sway the people of Germany to be a part and in favor of the Nazi party. The sense of sight brought out a powerful sense of emotion that would forever change the state of Germany.

Riefenstahl knew what she was getting into as she called it “a pact with the Devil” (The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl 1933). Her amazing directing is what captured and mesmerized people. Many people blame Riefenstahl for her actions but she claims that “It would have been difficult if not impossible to get out of it” (The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl 1993). Leni was a very talented director so can we blame her for using her talent? Under the power of Hitler, it’s true that she had no choice but to do the film. However, as seen in the documentary, Riefenstahl was against the use of the movie but was still very conscious while filming. She made sure that everything was perfect within this film. From the shots to the audio and to the quality, she pushed herself to make the best film she could. She knew the power of the images and clips she used and she knew the power of her own talent. Catering to Hitler’s request she made sure that this was more of an artistic film than a political one. Isn’t it a little contradictory to be against the film yet make sure it’s flawless? If you ask a doctor to do surgery on a bad person, the doctor still has to do their job as perfectly as possible because that is what they are trained to do. To expect Riefenstahl to do a bad job on this is very unrealistic. Even though Hitler needed her, he still had a lot of power over her. In a time of dictatorship it is very dangerous to go against the dictator. Hitler chose her because he knew about her talent and what it would do to the people through a misleading nature. Hitler did this knowing it would “provide only mindless spectacle and empty optimism for its passive public” (Tomasulo, 1998). Riefenstahl was someone who wanted creative freedom which is what made her stand out in Hitler’s eyes. Combining her creative talents and Hitler’s known public speaking skills “‘The fascist aesthetic valorized and derived pleasure from ‘situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain’” (Tomasulo, 1998). This film is propaganda because it took real life clips and made them into false ideologies/emotions using psychology. We cannot blame Riefenstahl for doing something that she had no choice over.

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 10

The Power of Film Propaganda

Triumph of the Will is a propaganda film released in 1935 under the commission of Adolf Hitler. The movie's purpose was to capture how strong and powerful the Nazi party was and ignite a feeling of nationalism within the people. The movie's purpose was carried out pretty successfully with many people feeling the power of the Nazi party and wanting to be a part of it. The film specifically is a powerful propaganda tool in the way it was so technologically advanced for its time. The way the movie cut to different shots within each scene but kept the audio over it was something unbeknownst for its time. People saw this as peak cinema and related that back to what the Nazi party was to their eyes: peak creation. It also didn’t follow a set plot like normal movies typically do. It was more of a compilation of Hilter giving speeches, marches, and overall crowd excitement. It fostered a sense of nationalism by putting emphasis on “patriotic themes that convey a renewed sense of national identity and unity following a period of economic and political instability” (Tomasulo, 1998). The environment of the country at the time, paired with how technologically impressive Triumph of the Will was, made it an overly successful propaganda piece. There were many specific scenes that had an impact on ordinary Germans who were designated as Aryan and those who were not. For example at time 45:36 through 51:31 in the movie, Hitler is seen addressing the Nazi youth. As the camera flipped to all of the children in the crowd, it was just a sea of Aryan children and no one else. This is a key part in how it influenced both sides. To Germans who looked like them, they felt a sense of belonging and pride. They saw beings who looked like them being praised for their appearance and labeled by superior. Also having this direct representation in such a highly spread film made people who fit the description they were showing feel more a part of the movement. On the other hand, people who were not Aryan didn’t feel the same way. They were not as represented or as celebrated as these people were and in many of Hilters speeches he talked down upon people who didn’t look how they dreamed him to look. Many people felt scared after the movies were released because of how many more Germans felt persuaded to get involved with the Nazi party. Triumph of the Will tremendously increased Nazi support as a whole.

The film was made and directed by Leni Riefenstahl. She was paid by Hitler to make a film about the Nazi party as well as Hitler and his greatness. Because of how many people this film made support the Nazi Party as well as how it laid the groundwork for Hitler continuing to rise to even greater power, she should be held accountable. That being said, Riefenstahl had no way of knowing that profound impact her work would have had. In her eyes, she was not doing this with a specific evil end goal, but instead was following orders from the country's leader at the time. It wasn't inherently her fault that the movie left such an impact and persuaded so many people who watched it to follow Hitler but she should still take accountability for her actions. This film in all served as an enabler for the Nazi Regime but in situations like this, it is important not just to blame one person but instead all involved.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

An Unintentional Masterpiece or a Filmmaker with a Hidden Agenda?

Triumph of the Will is a powerful propaganda tool because of how it’s able to evoke such strong emotions of collectivism and patriotism. Through its cinematography, it gives the German audience a sense of purpose and identity. It is a visually stunning and awe-inspiring spectacle that continues to use Nazi symbolism to bring out a sense of unity and strength. In a way, the entire concept is romanticized, portraying Hitler as this charismatic leader who is saving Germany, a hero. Between the imagery and purposeful choice of music, it serves its purpose to promote propaganda. From an outside perspective, the racist ideology can be realized and Germany can be seen as a growing threat to others. For those who aren’t Aryan German and don’t fit their standard, it alienates and marginalizes them. It must have been terrifying to see the extremities they had gone to to ingrain this ideology into people from a non-Aryan perspective. It had seeped its way into every aspect of German life- from all the kids being required to participate in the Hitler Youth, brainwashed and trained to be one of Hitler’s soldiers going so far as to denounce their own family. People were unable to trust their own flesh and blood, their own child, in fear of one wrong move that would be seen as going against the Nazi ideology. From the news to the radio, the scheduled marches, parades, and torchlight ceremonies- it was like a cult that overtook a whole country. That type of power is not to be taken lightly, and can for sure almost seem like Hitler had power that transcended beyond human extent, whether being seen as a god to some, or the devil to others. Seeing how everyone gathered and reflexively raised their hands at the sight of him was truly something to fear. Now imagine that power and effect multiplied by ten from this film, how it furthered the intensity of the Nazis. The film seamlessly emotionally manipulates the German audience into viewing the Nazi ideology and agenda as some sort of agenda for the greater good.

It can be argued that Leni Riefenstahl had simply done a tremendous job of what she was commissioned to do, and was exceptional at her craft. However, it does not excuse the fact that the film she had created had a powerful impact that helped promote Nazi propaganda. The Mass Psychology of Fascist Cinema (Tomasulo,1998) states that “she created, rather than merely documented, an event that would not have occurred in quite the same way without the presence of cameras and microphones.” The effect would not have been the same without her artistic eye in executing this film. She had worked closely with the Nazis in order to create such a film to fulfill that purpose. She knew what she was walking into when agreeing to make this film and therefore, she does hold some sort of responsibility regarding what happened during the Nazi era and the Holocaust. Whether intentionally supporting the Nazis or not, (though her actions do point towards the fact that she supported the Nazis by agreeing to make this film) she served as an enabler for the Nazi regime. Further stated, “True to form, the documentary establishes a “cult of personality” around its “star,” a mystical aura associated with Nature, religion, and a “folkish” family-based patriotism. The film spectacle often connects its heroic leader with the sky, the earth, and animals; Christian and pagan religious connotations abound; and flags, parades, torchlight rituals, and military-national symbols dominate the mise-en-scene. Indeed, all the signifying: mechanism of the cinema–camera angles, editing, music, set design, lighting, and narration–are marshaled to appeal to the irrational character structure of its malleable mass audience” (Tomasulo, 1998). Her artistic choices were very purposefully done, and resulted in the effect that it had. Despite the fact that she claimed to be “apolitical” and did not believe the Nazi ideology, she had helped them regardless, and there are consequences to her actions. These claims can be perceived as her attempts to avoid controversy and potential backlash for her personal beliefs so that her work would be still given credit for and recognized. It is too difficult to separate her propaganda work for the Nazi regime from her legacy as a filmmaker as the two have been so complexly intertwined and have had such profound and dark consequences. As pinkavocados has titled their own response, it very much does feel like “an intentional masterpiece”.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 7

Learn to Question Post 6: The Power of Propaganda--Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935)

Triumph of the will had many instances of nationalism in it. The film was able to connect other Germans as it gave them a sense of community and pride. The film became a powerful propaganda tool because every German was required to watch it which allowed them to all understand how the symbols, marches, and parades were to demonstrate the powerful regime. This was not all though. Leni Riefenstahl’s filming techniques and the way she was able to masterfully capture the power of the movement was also part of the propaganda itself. There were scenes of book burnings which showed that anyone who went against their ideas were not tolerated. This is a demonstration of power and it creates fear for Aryans who don’t agree with their ideas or want to start a different political party. Those who were Jews feared for their lives however, because of the antisemitic chants and beliefs. This antisemitism benefitted the Nazis because they were able to grow hatred towards Jews from Aryans and it created a bigger sense of pride and German nationalism rose thanks to the Us v. Them mentality.

Although Leni Riefenstahl’s film allowed many to end up supporting the Nazis, she can be separated from her art, therefore she shouldn’t take responsibility. Someone in this discussion had a point though, Mapa307 states how “she did have control over all the cinematography and the editing” so she could’ve put in less effort and generated a less impactful film. This provides a great argument because she went out of her way to get a camera lift on one of the flagpoles, as stated in The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993), when she didn’t have to. In her defense, she was an artist and she shouldn’t be blamed for wanting to put in effort for her film. It shouldn’t be ignored that even though she was commissioned by one of the most powerful men in the world at that time, she still had the choice to refuse. And even after she refuses, then what? Hitler had enough power to just commission someone else to make the film. At the time of creating the film, no one would know her film would take part in the deaths of millions and even without it Hitler’s plans were already in motion with the creation of concentration camps.

Leni Riefenstahl should not take responsibility in the creation of the film but there is no changing that she will forever be remembered for the film. Her legacy as a filmmaker will always be tied to the Nazi regime whether she likes it or not because it is the consequences. We can’t believe that Riefenstahl was apolitical because the film promoted the Nazi’s ideas and antisemitism was apparent. In The Mass Psychology of Fascist Cinema (Tomasulo,1998), Leni Riefenstahl argues how the film has no commentary because it is pure history. Separating the art from the artist is one thing but how can that be true when she knew what she was doing? She wasn’t “just following orders” she was experienced and knew how to make the propaganda impactful. If she wanted the film to only be “pure history”, then she didn’t need to go out of her way to make Hitler look like a hero.

Boston, Massachusettes, US
Posts: 8

The Power of Propaganda: Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935)

Triumph of the Will was such a powerful propaganda tool because not only did it demonstrate how many people were in support of the Nazi party but it also made everyone feel much more unified. After the surrender of World War 1, many Germans felt like they were betrayed and wanted a far more powerful party that would lead them to a better future. Specific images or scenes that were designated at “Aryans” must have made them feel included and seen. They must have felt strength in numbers especially after seeing thousands of people just like them supporting this new all powerful party meant to bring them peace and prosperity. People in these scenes and images look to be smiling, having lots of fun participating in supporting the future of their country. During the film Triumph of the Will during the parade of stormtroopers with the flags and insignias from regions throughout Germany (1:01:08 through 1:04:52) these scenes may have incited fear in those who were different from mainstream German culture. Seeing such large numbers of people in support of a party that doesn’t support you would have been terrifying. Leni Riefenstahl should be held accountable because movies, articles, papers, and other forms of media can have a profound effect on people, especially if there is only one perspective. We can not believe Leni Riefenstahl’s assertion that she was apolitical and did not believe in Nazi ideology because the Nazi made sure that there was only full compliance when their party was in power. Although in an excerpt from her memoir, she wrote, “This amounted almost to a threat. Even so, I was determined to resist taking on this assignment.” We can see that when the Nazi’s outlawed any opposing political party to ensure no one could be against them. Using this information we can infer that they would not have taken Riefenstahl’s indifference to their party and ideology lightly. Her legacy should be tied to her propaganda work for the Nazi regime because it was such a big part of her career. It would be incredibly hard to deny or even dismiss a part of history just because Riefenstahl does not want to be remembered for this work. It is hard to separate art from the artist when the art had such profound consequences because it affected a lot of people. People find it easier to separate art from artist or just ignore any problematic characteristic in the present because the art either doesn’t affect people on such a large scale or it’s just the artist that is a debatable person.

boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 6

The Power of Propaganda: Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935)

Leni Rienfenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, commissioned by Hitler himself, glorifies the experience of Nazi Germany, promoting it as a unifying and reputation redeeming system. The way this film is shot and how different scenes are shown highlight the supposedly positive aspects of Hitler’s leadership; the Hitler youth rallying to demonstrate the devotion to the Nazi party by parents letting their children become part of Hitler’s own mini army; the many clips of what seems to be ordinary Germans routinely showing their support to the Nazi party showing that it is unanimously accepted by the people and ingrained into their everyday lives. These aspects of propaganda were included to show the intense nationalism of Germany to the rest of the world. It may even be argued that it could have been somewhat used as intimidation for rival nations because it shows Hitlers immense impact on the country and gives a peek into the nation and army that he had been meaning to build. This film is also meant to give “non-Aryans'' the feeling of inferiority, in Hitler’s speech he says the phrase ‘You cannot be other than united with us’ when he says this he is only addressing the Nazi party supporters, basically saying, if you do not stand with everything they represent, you cannot be apart of their united front, thus creating an ‘us vs. them’ mentality within the German people. Although this film was not written by or thought of by Leni Riefenstahl, her work contributed to the impact the Nazi movement had on everyday Germans. Though she is not entirely responsible for the outcome this film had, her use of cinematography to portray and capture the message Hitler wanted to send with this film must be accounted for. The way she filmed the rallies and Nazi’s typical daily life cannot be seen as unintentional. Leni knew Hitler had a message, and she was trusted to spread it for a reason. At the end of the day, she was given a job and she did it well, whether or not she meant to show her support for the cause she was spreading, she spread it greatly and the effect that it had on the people she was meant to reach was undeniable. In Leni’s Autobiography, she details the conversation she had with Hitler when he initially asked her to make the film; she denied on account of the fact that she is uneducated on the Nazi party, therefore her work would not be as in depth as she assumed he would want. Her denial was not at all based around her belief in or against the party, rather her ability to depict it in a thorough manner. She does detail the many excuses she gave Hitler as to why she would not be able to make the film, these excuses only added fuel to his fire and only motivated him to further push for her to work on this project. The quality of her work which she is responsible for should be held responsible for the outcome the film produced.

Posts: 11

Triumph of the will is such a powerful propaganda tool because it showcases the might of the Nazis. From the discipline to the preparation shown, the Nazis are made to be a figure that should be feared. They are made to be a figure of strength to give confidence that they could lead the German nation in the right direction. The scenes of the group of soldiers in formation and the shots of Adolf Hitler are the most impactful scenes. The shots of the soldiers in formations showcase the soldiers of the Nazis as extremely disciplined and plentiful. Almost as if they are robots and superior to all other armies. The Nazi army is shown to be powerful and this can both fear and inspire the German people as they would feel like they have a powerful army backing them up however, any one who opposes the Nazis would be struck with fear. The shots of Adolf Hitler’s speech would cast him as a leader for the German nation. They would see Hitler as a strong figure who is capable of leading them to where they need to be setting him superior to the rest of people. The shots of the Nazi youth rally and the ceremonies done have the most impact on non Aryans. The shots of the Nazi youth rally works to show how the people of Germany are standing by the Nazis and their ideals. The ways they interacted at the youth rally may help isolate non Aryans even more as they will see that the rest of the people stand behind the Nazis and their ideals firmly. Non Aryans can no longer go to just anybody for support since there is a good chance they are a supporter. The ceremonies of loyalty done further go to show that they are isolated since these ceremonies paint the supporters as even greater supporters because they are willing to undergo these ceremonies. In a way it legitimizes this support and essentially hatred of non Aryans. On top of that, the constant swastikas, flags, and insignias go to show that they are surrounded by the ideas of the Nazis that is anti non aryan. They cannot get away from this hatred and further feel isolated even if they are right there. These symbols embody the ideals and their strength showing that they are not going away anytime soon. Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker, should not be held entirely responsible for what happened during the Nazi era and Holocaust. She should be helf accountable up to a certain extent. However, it is important to acknowledge that the Nazis would most likely have just found somebody else or figure something else out to accomplish the same goals. She did serve to be an enabler to the Nazi regime and it was wrong of her to do that but she should not be blamed for the Holocaust or the action of the Nazis or have received the amount of hatred she did receive. If it wasn’t for her it would have been done by someone else or in some other form and I think it is important to recognize that.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

The Power of a Movie Ticket

Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will is one of the most dangerous forms of propaganda from the Nazi party era. It is a film that fostered a noble image about Hitler and the Nazi party. She includes footage of the Hitler Youth rallies and parades, highlighting conformity and furthering the norm of the group. There is one scene where Hitler tells the Hitler Youth to be a peace-loving people with no division was just another way to foster “us vs them,” as only German children could be a part of Hitler Youth. The group shots provided the audience with a sense of pride for their nation in seeing so many people come together under one flag. They would go through the streets with flags, yelling chants that not only were antisemitic, but made them feel as if they were one unstoppable force, something that many people participated in due to a lack of self-worth. It impacted Germans because they saw the regime as a new way to unite and come together after all that had happened during the war. The film invoked pride in the country but also fear, fear that if a person didn’t join the parades and the regime, that they would be an outlier. Nobody wanted to be an outlier, and when people are marching through the streets holding flags and chanting, not participating makes them feel like they don’t belong in their own country. Thus, most everybody joined these rallies. Scenes such as the one where everyone was marching and holding torches in the shape of a swastika are hard to look at, because they hold so much history and it is just terrifying that people could become so brainwashed that they thought that was what their country was built upon. In The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, Riefenstahl says that “it would have been very difficult, or impossible” to get out of making Triumph of the Will, which I feel like makes some sense. She was being asked by Hitler to do something, and although we view Hitler as the horrible person that he is, at that time those citizens thought that he was the coolest person and anyone would be willing to do something if asked by him. I think that she does hold responsibility for making the film, as its effects were some of the most powerful, and the film was substantial in increasing conformity of the people. I think that she did serve as an enabler for the Nazi regime, and yes it is wrong, but we are thinking about it from a perspective of modern day. I think she should not be separated from the film, despite her “apolitical” affiliation. Because it was such an effective means of promoting the Nazi regime, it cannot just be stripped from her creations. For example, Kanye’s music will forever be his music, and although listening to it does not make you a bad person as watching Triumph of the Will does not make you a Nazi, there is no art without an artist.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Triumph of the Will

Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will was a powerful propaganda tool that allowed the Nazi regime to manipulate the opinions of ordinary Germans into supporting their ideology. Riefenstahl was an expert cinematographer, and she used various film techniques to glorify the Nazi party which drew more praise and admiration from the public. The cinematography during the storm trooper parade would have been particularly effective at portraying Hitler as some sort of elevated almost godlike being in the eyes of ordinary German viewers, which was emphasized by his considerable height over the crowds and the presence of huge elaborate art pieces displaying Nazi symbols. The huge processions and marches which displayed these symbols were meant to instill an intense feeling of pride for being German, which the public needed after the humiliation of World War I and the Weimar years. Propaganda similar to this movie that created this feeling of unity was instrumental in the radicalization of the German population as Hitler could use "nationalism" to justify extreme policies. Propaganda that glorified the "Aryan race" made it clear that there were certain requirements people had to meet in order to be accepted, and that if they didn't fit these requirements they were to be seen as enemies.

Although Leni Riefenstahl claimed that she was apolitical and that she simply did what she was paid to, it is undeniable that her film heavily glorified Hitler and the Nazi Party because of the reasons I stated above. Because of all of that, I find it very hard to believe that Riefenstahl was truly "apolitical" as she claimed to be. Some evidence to back this can be found in her own autobiography, when she recounts how Hitler had told her that he "promised [her] complete freedom for the production" of Triumph of the Will. Riefenstahl says it herself that she was in no way forced to shoot the film in a way that clearly promoted the Nazi party, so to me she should have had no reason to create the film in a way that made Nazi ideology appealing. Riefenstahl's memoir was only published in 1992 so in my opinion it is very likely that she supported the Nazi party at the time of the film's making and only made attempts to disassociate from her past work in order to save face, instead of because of her being apolitical as she claimed. Ultimately, it's difficult to say whether Leni Riefenstahl should have been held responsible for the effect her film had on her audience. While she did not necessarily participate in atrocities herself, her film had an undeniable impact on the beliefs of ordinary Germans under the Nazis, and the degree to which they complied with Nazi atrocities.

Although people change and it's possible that Leni Riefenstahl truly was apolitical by the end of her life, she should not be forgiven for the impact that her creation had on the beliefs of millions of people during such a clearly unstable time. I personally believe that Riefenstahl's legacy is permanently stained by Triumph of the Will because has clearly shown that she supported the Nazis during the time of its making, so her continuing to make the claim that she was apolitical only taints it even further.

posts 16 - 26 of 26