The subject of the film is the 1934 Nazi Party convention. Staged annually at Nuremburg, the convention was a series of speeches by Nazi leaders, reviews of their uniformed followers, and mass rallies involving thousands of people.
Although Riefenstahl’s work has been labeled a Nazi propaganda film, it is actually the filming of a propaganda subject by a non-Nazi, a woman whose appointment by Hitler to make the film was resented by the propagandists in the Nazi hierarchy.
The result is a fascinating expression of one individual’s impression of the Hitler movement. Riefenstahl’s film pioneered many dramatic techniques of film direction and editing which have effectively translated to the screen all the paganistic joy, the unrestrained emotion, and the awesome power which characterized the Nazi rallies.
The complete dominance of one man’s personality throughout the film, as well as over an entire nation, is more forcefully conveyed to the viewer’s awareness in Triumph of the Will than in any other film or book about the Third Reich in existence.
The film is one of the most important films ever made. Not because it documents evil, more watchable examples are being made today. And not as a historical example of blind propaganda, those movies are merely laughable now. No, Riefenstahl’s masterpiece, and it is a masterpiece, politics aside, combines the strengths of documentary and propaganda into a single, overwhelmingly powerful visual force.