Triumph of the Will: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Although Triumph of the Will seems like a documentary, it is in fact a propaganda tool, devised by the Nazis to win influence over the masses. The end result is better than ever imagined, as it presents all the strong suits of the organization, even if it glosses over some points and ignores rational thought at times. The film takes place in 1934, at the Nuremberg Party Congress and at this event, it was the start of the Third Reich. In essence, Triumph of the Will was meant to document this rise for future generations, but this is not all documentary stuff, to be sure. This film shows the effects of the Nazi propaganda movements, as well as Adolf Hitler’s mastery of public speaking and that alone makes this a historically important document. Yes, Hitler leads the list of Nazi regulars who appear in the film, along with such names as Hermann Goring, Heinrich Hemmler, Rudolf Hess, and Josef Goebbels. Of course, Triumph of the Will has become the definitive propaganda picture and even after all these years, the mastery within is easy to see and although the message is not a good one, the filmmakers knew just how to make it all work here.

If you want to discuss propaganda flicks, then Triumph of the Will is bound to come up, as it is the most (in)famous piece of them all. I am always taken back by this movie, as it works so well and is made with such precision, it is easy to see it could have played a factor in many peoples’ opinions. But the exact influence would be impossible to gauge of course, although you have to assume it moved some folks to join up, at least I do. Unlike most of the propaganda films from this era, Triumph of the Will is not comical in the modern time, not even close. You can laugh off some of the more outrageous pieces out there, but this one uses such emotional means, it still stands as a serious, well crafted sample of propaganda. This is a perfect example of effective filmmaking however, as director Leni Riefenstahl delivered just what she was hired to make, a movie that would influence the masses and spread the doctrines of the Nazis. She uses heavy doses of emotion and that makes the difference, as it leaves out some of the thinking behind the issues and in this case, that is good news for the producers. This might not be a film everyone wants to own, but all cinema buffs should see Triumph of the Will, especially in this new disc from Synapse Films. I commend Synapse for taking the task to issue this powerful piece in such fine form, very recommended all around and even if scary at times, this is one everyone should see at least once.

Video: How does it look?

Triumph of the Will is presented in a windowboxed transfer, which preserves the film’s intended aspect ratio. This looks better than I ever expected, given that this is a propaganda flick from 1934, after all. The print shows some wear signs of course, but nothing serious in the least and in the end, this is ten times cleaner than I was counting on, impressive work indeed. The clean source print allows the contrast to be in order and here, that’s the case and then some. I found the black levels to be well balanced here, with no loss of detail I could discern at all. Of course, this is not as sharp or pristine as more modern feature, but then again, we shouldn’t expect that with a release such as this one, now should we?

Audio: How does it sound?

The original German language track is used here, via a mono option that seems adequate enough in the end. The audio comes from pretty much two sources here, the musical soundtrack and various speeches given by the Nazi fellows. The music sounds good, cleaner than expected and pleasant, while the applause and various other effects come across well also. The speeches come through in fine form also, not as crisp as more recent releases, but well in order when you consider the age and nature of this piece. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, just in case you might want to enable those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The main bonus here is an audio commentary track with historian Dr. Anthony R. Santora, who provides an excellent overall session. Santora discusses the historic impact of the film, as well as giving background on the various figures seen within the movie. A sort of history lesson on a disc, if you ask me and I am very pleased he was selected to offer his thoughts, as his comments add a lot of value to this release. This disc also houses a bonus short film by Riefenstahl called Day of Freedom, which is cool to have on deck and shows some more of her work, very cool indeed.

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