Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Triumph of the Will: Leni Riefensthal (1934)

Riefenstahl’s propaganda film of the Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1934 has been hailed by critics as a ‘technical masterpiece’. However, the film also shows the extent to which Nazism can be viewed as an 'aestheticised politics'. The German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin famously that Nazism is an ‘aestheticised politics’; a politics of myth and the theatrical.

Additionally, the film stands a monument to the birth of a particular kind of modern politics and allows us to explore the relationship between Nazism and more contemporary forms of so-called ‘democratic politics’. It is easy to discern similarities between the spectacular nature of Nazi politics and more contemporary forms of ‘spectacular politics’ as seen on TV. For example, here you can see the birth of the mass ‘party rally’, the reduction of political message to rhetorical simplicities and the celbration of the almost messianic qualities of the political leader.

Another prophetic film in many respects

Neil Turnbull

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