The film of the Sixth Party Rally of the National Socialists, which took place from September 4th to September 10th, 1934, in Nuremberg. This was Leni Riefenstahl's second — and only full-length — film for the National Socialist Party (NSDAP), and as an award-winning masterpiece of camerawork, direction and editing, it is widely agreed by virtually every film critic to be the greatest propaganda film of all time. As with the two other, shorter films which she did for the NSDAP, Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933) and the later Tag der Freiheit! — Unsere Wehrmacht! (1935), unlike the typical propaganda films put out by the Nazi party during that period, Triumph des Willens contains no running commentary and thus could technically rather be considered to be a documentary film, and with its style perhaps even an art film. However, the propagandistic political value of this film in promoting Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party is also clearly undeniable, its effect on the people of Germany and, indeed, the entire world is a matter of record and history, and in that regard it may very well be perhaps the most significant, most influential — and certainly the most infamously controversial — film of the 20th century.
Triumph of the Will premiered on 28 March 1935 at the Berlin Ufa Palace Theater and was an instant success. Within two months the film had earned 815,000 Reichsmark, and the Ufa considered it one of the three most profitable films of that year. Hitler praised the film as being an "incomparable glorification of the power and beauty of our Movement." For her efforts, Riefenstahl was rewarded with the German Film Prize (Deutscher Filmpreis), a gold medal at the 1935 Venice Biennale, and the Grand Prix at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris. However, there were few claims that the film would result in a mass influx of 'converts' to fascism and the Nazis apparently did not make a serious effort to promote the film outside of Germany. Film historian Richard Taylor also said that Triumph was not generally used for propaganda purposes inside the Third Reich, although Roy Frumkes argued that, on the contrary, it was shown each year in every German theater until 1945. The Independent wrote in 2003: "Triumph of the Will seduced many wise men and women, persuaded them to admire rather than to despise, and undoubtedly won the Nazis friends and allies all over the world."
The reception in other countries was not always as enthusiastic. British documentarian Paul Rotha called it tedious, while others were repelled by its pro-Nazi sentiments. During World War II, Frank Capra made a direct response called Why We Fight, a series of newsreels commissioned by the United States government that spliced in footage from Triumph of the Will, but recontextualized it so that it promoted the cause of the Allies instead. Capra later remarked that Triumph "fired no gun, dropped no bombs. But as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal." Clips from Triumph were also used in an Allied propaganda short called General Adolph Takes Over, set to the British dance tune "The Lambeth Walk." The legions of marching soldiers, as well as Hitler giving his Nazi salute, were made to look like wind-up dolls, dancing to the music. Also during World War II, the poet Dylan Thomas wrote a screenplay for and narrated These Are The Men, a propaganda piece using Triumph footage to discredit Nazi leadership.
One of the best ways to gauge the response to Triumph was the instant and lasting international fame it gave Riefenstahl. The Economist said it "sealed her reputation as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century." For a director who made eight films, only two of which received significant coverage outside of Germany, Riefenstahl had unusually high name recognition for the remainder of her life, most of it stemming from Triumph. However, her career was also permanently damaged by this association. After the war, Riefenstahl was imprisoned by the Allies for four years for allegedly being a Nazi sympathizer and was permanently blacklisted by the film industry. When she died in 2003, 68 years after its premiere, her obituary received significant coverage in many major publications -- including the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and The Guardian -- most of which reaffirmed the importance of Triumph.
Though the actual effectiveness of the media film Triumph of the Will is hard to measure, in terms of numbers or statistics that actually state its effectiveness, its response from the people is well-documented with the amount of views and the popularity of the movie during the time period. One way to measure the effectiveness of German propaganda, like Triumph, was how the people treated the acts of the Nazis and their treatment and conduct towards the Jewish people. German citizen reactions to the methods used by the Nazis were merely to do nothing, and research proves that it was not well accepted. “…In the short run most of those who felt embarrassed learned to turn a blind eye and retreat into non-political privacy. It was much easier to conform than to swim against the stream”. Triumph influenced Germany and its people to believe that Hitler and his cause were just. It helped the people ease their tensions towards the Third Reich and their actions.
The sequences (not including opening and closing titles/credits) from the film are:
01. Hitler's Arrival
02. Hitler's Serenade
03. The City Awakening
04. The Folk Parade
05. Opening of the Party Congress
06. Introduction of the Labour Corps
07. Lutze Addresses the SA
08. The Hitler Youth
09. Review of the Army
10. The Evening Rally
11. Hitler and the SA
12. The Parade
13. The Rally Closing