"I Compose the Party Rally. . .": The Role of Music in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will

Title"I Compose the Party Rally. . .": The Role of Music in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsStrötgen, Stefan
JournalMusic and Politics
Date PublishedWinter 2008

Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s film documenting a 1935 National Socialist rally in Nuremberg, has become iconic of Nazi Germany. Its footage frequently serves as a repository for images of the Third Reich. This article explores the tension between the film’s propagandistic elements and Riefenstahl’s claims that she was simply capturing events as they unfolded. As a director of documentaries, Riefenstahl believed it was her role to make any given image “express itself more strongly than it did in reality,” an aesthetic mandate that allowed her to exacerbate the propagandistic nature of the rally. This is particularly evident in the film’s use of music, which scholars have largely ignored. By blurring the line between diegetic and non-diegetic musics, seeding the soundtrack with popular songs designed to appeal to a large audience, and underscoring images of Hitler with the Horst Wessel Song, the Nazi Party anthem, Riefenstahl did not create a “neutral document” of an event. Instead, she produced a film that reinforced the ideology of the National Socialists, steeling the German populace for the war that was shortly to come. [Music & Politics]

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