Cinematography and Youth in Triumph des Willens

Triump des Willens (1935) succeeds in convincing the viewer that Adolf Hitler’s rise—and the rise of the Nazi party, was an enthusiastic national movement that served as the core of Germany’s ascension to dominance. The camera work is marvelous. The cameras spend the majority of time with their lenses pointed upwards at Hitler’s face or the structure upon which he stands, a subtle yet effective tactic to generate a larger than life feel. The long shots used in Trimph des Willens are the longest I have seen done in a film so aged, and are strategically placed to absorb as much of the parade or rally as possible. The music accompanying the shots in between the cuts of Hitler’s speeches are very upbeat, which exudes a type of happiness—almost eagerness that the Nazi’s are feeling at the opportunity to participate (although, many of them seem quite austere).

At the forty-five minute mark, Hitler addresses the young men of Germany, who are known as the Hitler Youth or Hitlerjugend. Males and females between the ages of 10-18 were indoctrinated into this program, which began in 1922 and ceased activity in 1945. The Hitler Youth were seen as the future of German purity, and had Nazi ideologies instilled on them at an early age, as well as physical training, military training, and academia. The Nazi Party also used them as spies in order to gain control over the Church to gain ground in the power struggle between the Church and state. Similarities can be drawn between the activities the Hitler Youth were involved in and American Boy Scouts, as they were trained in basic skills that could be very useful in dire situations. The Hitler Youth were groomed to be the next generation of the Schutzstaffel or SS, meaning protection squadron.

Stalin’s Accusations of Subversion

Stalin’s attempts to remove any political factions that were pitted against him provide an iconic example of a totalitarian rise to power.  These ambitions are summarized definitively in “Purges,” a document published in 1935.  In this passage, Stalin’s prose reveals his feelings that the extant companions of Lenin in the Soviet Union constituted a threat to his own political prowess and thus needed to be eliminated by whatever means necessary to decimate their power and credibility with the general public.

Stalin accused figures such as Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Trotsky of “insincerity and duplicity” in their statements of allegiance to the state and claimed that they were responsible for numerous acts of subversion, most significantly “a villainous plot against the life of S.M. Kirov. (Stalin)  The more poignant purpose of these accusations was to portray these Old Bolsheviks as enemies of the “common cause.” (Stalin)  By extension, these opponents of Stalinism became the collective enemy of the public.  Thus, by publishing “Purges,” Stalin attempted to simultaneously denounce the likes of the Old Bolsheviks and create a unifying “us against them” mentality amongst the Russian population.  The administrative technique of “unification against a common enemy” is pervasive throughout history and is evident in countless examples of leadership beyond the political sphere.   “Purges,” however, is one of the most archetypal instances of the usage of this tool.

Do you think that Stalin’s accusations of “insincerity and duplicity” against the Old Bolsheviks were a calculated act of propaganda or simply the product of paranoia? (Stalin)

Housing Problems

Housing Problems is a 1935 document about housing problems in Britain. The video is very similar to Orwell’s piece entitled ‘Road to Wigan Pier’. It depicts the poor conditions that the lower class in Britain had to live in. It is also interesting to notice that the people who are interviewed are wearing what appears to be decent clothes, with one man even wearing a three-piece suit, without the jacket. I don’t know if this was common attire, but in my opinion it looks like these people did their best to look good, despite the fact that this was a film documenting their poor living conditions. Logically, looking as bad as possible would be conducive to the documentary and thus to the possibility of attaining help, but the emotional response of the interviewees represents the idea of pride that was still prevalent in this ‘new poor’ section of society.