Sieg des Glaubens

The structure of this reichsparteitagsfilm is purely relative and therefore relatively simple. The goons who run the madhouse carnival are exhibited before the cameras, the Party Congress begins like a Boy Scout convention and moves outdoors like a football rally. Hitlerjugend receive his speech, the persistent theme is November 1918, the old regime has been rooted out, the new generation must free Deutschland from bondage.

The capper is a martial sea of helmeted and uniformed men whose front ranks look suitably tough, but Riefenstahl examines the substance of this army dispassionately.

The mocking title means victory on faith.


Tag der Freiheit
Unsere Wehrmacht

Riefenstahl has great feeling for the bloom of manhood on a frosty morning brushing their teeth and shaving under the German cross, natural vigor and native intelligence are with them, here is the nation’s future in good hands. The troops are marshaled to entertain the Führer and the Party Congress with war games in a stadium under Nazi flags, she briefly shows the leaders on their reviewing stand now and again, their idiocy is obvious. The soldiers move like rapid toys, Riefenstahl admires with Apollinaire the beauty of an anti-aircraft gun, sees the prophetic aircraft overhead. The swastika flag bears the German cross in a quadrant.


Triumph des Willens

The title expresses, in a Borgesian manner, the summation of the experience to the English-speaking world, Tree-oomph dess Villains.

Gene Siskel introduced this on the Peeb as a shocking film kept in a vault by the O.S.S. for its propaganda power, and in particular he noted the terrifying image of Der Führer’s Fokker casting its shadow over the land.

Now, in truth, it couldn’t scare a flea. Riefenstahl records every bit of Speer’s foolishness and, best of all, the lunatic speeches read by top dogs of the National Socialist Workers’ Party in Nuremberg. You can all but feel the ache in the balls of SS units goose-stepping on cobblestones, and no O.S.S. man worth his cyanide pill could have missed the faux baloney of the operatic ending.

Hitler in fact burned the Reichstag and installed the members of Parliament in the Kroll Opera House, which accounts as much as anything else for the theatrical quality (cf. Toulouse-Lautrec) of his marchers.



Fest der Schönheit
Fest der Völker

The athleticism of the occasion is the sole inspiration, with two secondary themes, Greece and Hitler. So here is the Wagnerian anti-myth come to grief in its own shallows.

In effect, the composer Herbert Windt is so inspired by this masterpiece that he gives you, to paraphrase a famous Playboy cartoon, “four hours of uninterrupted music”.

Part II opens with a theme common to Man Ray and Hitchcock.