A Film Diary

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Leni Riefenstahl’s famous German propaganda film about Adolf Hitler and the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg is widely-held to be one of the most effective ever made, and pioneered or even helped to popularise some filmmaking techniques, such as the use of aerial shots and the unexpected marriage of certain types of music with certain types of footage. It’s filled with images of Hitler and his underlings as they bark out their insidious speeches – in a nutshell to ‘Make Germany great again’ – to masses of SA and SS soldiers, as well as crowds of citizens; and the straight-arm Nazi salute is pretty much present throughout (in one memorable sequence an empty street is quickly filled with the shadows of saluting soldiers as they march forward, all shot directly overhead by Riefenstahl). Viewed with the benefit of knowing a) what happened during the next 11 years and b) the extent to which some of the political messages, rhetoric and displays of military might are being repeated by our superpowers today, it’s incredibly chilling viewing. As a piece of filmmaking, from a technical perspective, it’s impressive. And it’s easy to see how persuasive it would have been given the social context at the time. (***½)