Triumph Of The Will (Blu-ray Review)

Triumph-of-the-WillTo some, it is a work of art, an example of cinematic genius of the highest order.  To others, it is perhaps the most dangerous and heinous piece of propaganda ever produced.  TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, Leni Riefenstahl’s classic piece of historical filmmaking, filmed during the 1934 Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg, Germany, is considered by many to be one of the most important and notorious films ever made.  In 2001 and 2006, Synapse Films released TRIUMPH OF THE WILL on DVD to equal parts acclaim and controversy and now, in 2015, Synapse revisits TRIUMPH with the definitive Blu-ray that shows this motion picture milestone in a whole new light.  This title continues to be one of Synapse Films’ top selling titles and is a hit with schools, universities, and libraries. History buffs and film scholars have celebrated Synapse’s DVD as the best quality version of this film available anywhere.  This all-new remastered version of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL is derived from a new 2K scan, digitally corrected and restored under the supervision of film historian and preservationist, Robert A. Harris (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA; VERTIGO; MY FAIR LADY).  From obscure cult films to film classics, Synapse Films is dedicated to the art of film restoration and we are proud to say that our Blu-ray edition of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL is one of our finest and most significant achievements yet.

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An historically significant and, at times, horrifyingly manipulative exercise in propaganda for the Nazi regime, TRIUMPH OF THE WILL continues to be controversial over seventy years after its original release. This historical document has been unavailable in Germany for many decades and Leni Riefenstahl has since come under fire for her personal relationship with Adolph Hitler, spending her life in the shadow of collaborating with the Nazi Party.

Yesterday hardcore adult entertainment, today vintage Nazi propoganda.  Synapse Films surely is getting into the Holiday spirit with their December releases.  As I come into this film, I truly am baffled on how I am supposed to rate it.  For Germany at this time, it was a moving and powerful film.  I look to the review aggregates to see if this has even been rated in the past and indeed it has.  The film scores high on IMDB with a 7.5 and Rotten Tomatoes has astoundingly given it a 94% Fresh rating (How funny would it be to see that sticker on the box).  This is apparently a great film.

If you put your thoughts on Nazism aside and focus on just the pure filmmaking aspects of it,  Leni Riefenstahl truly knows how to frame an image.  This movie is frickin’ full of iconography that would wind up being incredibly influential down the road.  From Charlie Chaplin angrily parodying the Fuhrer in The Great Dictator all the way up to today with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this film has led its mark.  Being a big Monty Python fan, I couldn’t help but have a chuckle at every time some higher pitched Nazi started yelling out things.  No, Nazism isn’t funny, but this obviously had to be some source of inspiration for their accents.

On the darker turn of things, and stepping back into the reality of what this film represents, its really scary as hell when you think about it.  You look at all the chants, the songs, the motions, the marches, they symbology everywhere…and its just really creepy.  All the smiles, all the people that look so happy and innocent about such an awful cause and in support of one of the worst humans every to walk Earth.  And his speeches (ESPECIALLY that scary ass nighttime one) are strong, violent, commanding and powerful.  My speech teacher in high school always said that Hitler was the worst person ever, but a great speaker.  She’s not wrong, I mean, he got a whole country behind him to do such insanely wrong things.

Why is this coming to Blu-ray?  Well, its a piece of history both for the schoolbooks and for cinema.  Carrying it on to show and teach during World War II is definitely important.  I’m not sure how access was to these things.  We only saw clips at my school growing up.  But, seeing this whole thing is just bizarre and pretty eerie.  This is a teaching tool on the Nazis and on propaganda.  And in a film sense, its wonderfully shot and crafted an iconography in framing, setups and imagery that still carries on to this day.  For me, though, that wasn’t enough, and this felt like schoolwork and I was kinda bored a lot of the time.  There are a lot of “Okay I get it” stuff that drags on between speeches.  It starts getting better toward the end, but overall I’m not someone who’s gonna rank this very highly.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.19:1

Clarity/Detail:  Triumph of the Will features an all-new 2015 high-definition 2K remaster of from a duplicate 35mm fine grain master.  The film does look dated with some streaks in it, but you can also see how good its been cleaned up and that Synapse has done the best they could.

Depth:  While spacing and such is definitely impressive for what this is, it is a hair flat at times.  Background imagery doesn’t provide the greatest in detail

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and do hide plenty of detail throughout.  No crushing witnessed though.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones have a white/gray appearance with minimal flicker and change throughout.  Close-ups provide your best bet at detail.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a nice, good layer of grain present.  Some aging also present in the print.

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Audio Format(s): German 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, Castilian Spanish, Parisian French, Japanese

Dynamics:  The audio here in the mix does sound a bit dated and of its time.  Music, vocals and sounds do their best to separate from one another, but the freeness isn’t too great.  There’s a hiss and some analog peaking present in louder boisterous moments.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Every is can be heard at a good volume.  Some issues, like peaking and buzzes, are in the source and not much you can do about that.

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Triumph Of The Will comes with an insert featuring some liner notes on the film as well as the restoration.

Audio Commentary

  • By Dr. Anthony R. Santoro, specialist on National Socialist German history

Day Of Freedom (HD, 17:52) – Leni Riefenstahl’s short film.  It was again commissioned by Hitler as the armed forces complained they weren’t properly represented in Triumph of the Will.

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Well, this is what it is.  While nobody promotes Nazism and the like, this is a well respected film.  Probably for its craft and reputation, not to to promote the Nazi party.  Synapse Films delivers it with what is probably the best ever picture quality this will have.  It features very adequate bonus materials as well.  Sadly, there was no gag reel for this one.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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