At the Ufa cinema near the Zoo in Berlin, Leni Riefenstahl's film Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) debuts. A documentary about the Reich Party Congress of 1934, the title comes from Adolf Hitler's conviction that if one simply has enough will power, they can accomplish anything and transform reality to match their own desires.
Leni Riefenstahl originally didn't want to make it, arguing that she had never made a documentary and didn't know enough about the Nazi Party. Adolf Hitler, however, wanted someone who could approach the material from an artistic perspective and who could convey powerful emotions — which is precisely what she successfully does.
Part of the success of Triumph of the Will as an artistic film lies with the fact that its subject, the Reich Party Congress of 1934, was designed with the film in mind. The rally was planned as mass spectacle to impress the people, but also planned to film well as a film spectacle. Special stations were created for the cameras. Speeches were redone in the studio when the originals weren't good enough. A huge film crew was used to capture everything, creating over sixty hours of footage that had to be edited down to two.
Part of the spectacle of Triumph of the Will is the persistent theme of religion. It starts in the opening scene when Adolf Hitler descends out of the clouds in his plane and continues throughout the film with images of churches and bishops, low camera angles, and of course Hitler's speech where he compares the Nazi Party to a "Holy Order". From beginning to end, Adolf Hitler is presented as a Messiah sent by God to deliver the German people from the evils imposed upon them by the unjust Versailles Treaty and the western allied nations.
Triumph of the Will is generally regarded as not only one of the best propaganda films in history, but one of the best films of any sort ever made. Because it is promoting an ideology that people also agree is irredeemable evil, the film poses a difficult question: can it be appreciated as art despite the ideology it promotes, or does the ideology at its heart prevent it from being good art?