Triumph des Willens * Leni Riefenstahl * 1934

How often do you get the chance to see movies of Leni Riefenstahl on a big screen? Not that often that I know of. The filmmuseum Antwerpen (Belgium) does show four of them though. 21-10-01 “Das Blaue Licht”, 25/10/01 “Triumph des Willens”, 29/10/01 “Tiefland” and on 30/10/01 both parts of “Olympia”. Because Antwerpen isn’t that close to where I live (about 85km) and the movies are mostly shown on week-days, I decided to just go to the most interesting / controversial one.

A real Belgian organisation! There were 100 seats in the room (I heard), but about 120 people inside and about 20 were sent away. Most of them already had a ticket! Anyway, no protestors outside (besides one against the pregnancy-pill) and nothing special in the audience. Just mostly people in their 50’ies probably wondering what the controverse around this movie is all about. Also a few younger people, but I believe most of them were movie or art students.

An introduction was done by a man named Arjen Mulder. In Germany the film is still forbidden to be played without an introduction. This doesn’t go for Belgium, but “probably for certainty” Mulder said. Mulder gave a good biography of Riefenstahl, but he seemed rather sceptical about her person and movies (but also defending her). He mentioned quite a few times how boring “Triumph” actually is and how Riefenstahl swung between brilliancy and sillyness. Funny were his stories of the first times that he tried to see Riefenstahl movies.

But on to the film itself. As you probably heard most images are pretty well-known because they have been used countless times in documentaries about the nazis and kindred subjects. Also sound-samples are often familiar if you listen to the same music as I do.
Of course the film is a documentary about the 6th nazi-party congress in Nürnberg in 1934. Hitler asked Riefenstahl to make it because he liked her “Das Blaue Licht”. Earlier the 5th party-congress (?) was filmed, but this was pretty much of a failure and Riefenstahl denies she ever made “Der Sieg des Glaubens”. Obviously the nazis learned from this film how they should portray themselves like they want to be and “Triumph” is already a lot better, not with soldiers trying to get a glimpse of Hitler and being pushed back in line, but just remaining their positions like they should.
“Triumph” mostly consists of images of parades and speeches which indeed becomes a bit boring after a while. Further there are some strange scenes in which soldiers are shouting or singing repeating eachother.

Often you hear that “Triumph” (or Riefenstahl’s films in general) are really well assembled (cut), but that didn’t really show to me. Often the sound doesn’t fit with the images (bad synchronising) and especially the applause after a speech is too obviously added afterwards, because 50.000 people don’t start and stop shouting and cheering the very same second. Also it is striking that almost nobody looks directly in or at the camera, not even when it is almost inside their noses.
Further is it very clear that Riefenstahl got all freedom to make what she (and Hitler) wanted, being able to shoot parades from different viewpoints (often very well done) either or not at the same time, she could walk upto Hitler and the audience during the speeches (or did she shoot the audience at another time?). I found the many close-ups of ‘general’ people pretty irritating, but I suppose that is just Riefenstahl’s style.

It is true what Mulder said, probably nobody will watch the movie and think “hé, I want that too”. It simply looks silly how all these people are walking in figures, shouting the same things and look extraordinary happy putting wood in an oven. These are the “esthetically pleasing” images that Riefenstahl was looking for, but they do not function too well for propaganda. The images are not “hypnotic”, the speeches no longer agitating and we in the 21st century and simply too different from 67 years ago to be affected by “Triumph” in a negative sense.

But afterall I am glad that I at least saw the thing, because most people’s opinions are formed without having seen the actual project. Actually I think they should show “Triumph” on tv in full-length a couple of times, then everybody will be able to see that it is just a documentary of many decades ago about an upcoming frenzy with devastating results by which people will be just a little influenced than by a documentary about nowadays terrorism.

It is nice to see how they made a documentary back then and funny to see how the nazis wanted themselves to be seen by the outside, but probably as most people who saw “Triumph des Willens”, I do not regard it as dangerous, actually quite the contrary.

And to close off a tip for everyone who did see it. Go to the “internet movie database”, because you will be able to find out who all these nameless persons in the movie are as they are listed in the “actors” list with descriptions.

Code Inconnu * Michael Haneke * 2000

I think most of you already know Michael Haneke for his ‘controversial’ movie “Funny Games”. It was said that this new movie has the same idea and effect, but I don’t agree with that.
“Code Inconnu” is a strange movie with different stories either or not touching eachother in the course of the film. The scenes usually end very abruptly which starts to irritate after a while. From some characters you will be able to find out what the story is, of others you get not enough information.
“Code Inconnu” is quite a ‘heavy’ movie, pretty depressive, especially in some of the stories. You will see a woman being kicked out of France after being picked up by the police over an event she could do nothing about, a boy fleeing his father and going to his sister in Paris, the sister who has a strange husband who is a soldier in the near-East, and more.
The film as a whole also ends very abruptly, so do not go and see it if you prefer understandable stories and stories with a clear beginning and end.
Overall I don’t even know if I liked it or not…

Bridget Jones’s Diary * Sharon Maguire * 2001

As we all know books, tv-series and movies about single women in their 30’ies are very popular nowadays. Once in a while I can enjoy an episode of “Sex and the City” and I may have watched this movie when it came on tv, but now I already saw in when I flew to the USA a few weeks back.
Not really a ‘plane movie’, because you actually have to listen carefully to what Bridget is telling which is pretty hard with the roar of plane-engines, passing flight-attendants and fellow-passangers.
All in all I found the movie pretty amusing, but I guess I will have to see it again once it is shown on tv.

Requiem For A Dream * Darren Aronofsky * 2000

Aronofsky debuted in 1999 with the brilliant movie “Pi“. Those who know and like it as much as I do, will be delighted to hear that Darren’s new movie just started to play in cinemas throughout Europe.

“Requiem” is not shot in black and white like “Pi” and also is not half as mysterious as it’s brilliant predecessor. Actually the story and message of “Requiem” is very simple. This movie is about addiction in several sences of the word. There is a boy named Harry who has been a friend of Tyrone for a long time. They experiment with drugs together and later decide to sell some to make some big money and never have to be a dealer again. Harry has a beautiful girlfriend called Marion who is also a junkie. In the movie you will see these three people going down in the downward spiral of drug-addicts.
Harry’s mother is addicted to television and the idea that some time she will be in her favorite tv-quiz. To be able to get into her red dress again, she starts seeing a doctor who gives her ‘diet-pills’ (three pills for three meals a day) which she gets addicted to and also mother heads towards a total breakdown.

“Requiem” is just as “Pi” shot and cut and pasted with fast, repetitive and disturbing images, strange sounds at hallucinating speed. This time Aronofsky also worked with colors to add to the effect. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are watching a character’s hallucination or if what you see is supposed to be real.

Again a brilliant movie and be sure to go and see it if you can.

The soundtrack is reviewed in the “music reviews” section.