By your esteemed film critics,
Now that the Third Reich’s annual film awards are almost upon us, we are hearing voices that object to some of the entrants, especially Leni Riefenstahl’s stirring “Triumph of the Will”. We have heard the objection, for instance, that Riefenstahl selectively showed smiling and enthusiastic faces, ignoring the many in the crowd who were bored, hostile or simply tired. They say this is rewriting history.
Actually, this kind of nitpicking is little more than a pretext for debate over the politics of the movie itself. These critics don’t like Hitler, and they are using “Triumph of the Will” as an opportunity to make themselves heard. But this shows only that they don’t understand Art.
Films are about entertainment and beauty, not truth. If they are true it is by accident. And this applies to all literature and art: was Shakespeare “true”? Karl May?
“Triumph of the Will” captured the imagination of the public because of its beautifully composed imagery and cinematic rhythm. However accurate it might be about what actually transpired at that rally in Nürnberg, which is something we may never know, it did exactly what great movies are supposed to do. The critics, on the other hand, express their contempt for the movie-going public. They think that viewers are simply passive objects of government propaganda, unable to think for themselves. Maybe they have more in common with Herr Goebbels than they know.
Invention remains one of the prerogatives of art and it is, after all, the job of writers, directors and actors to invent counterfeit realities. It is unfair to blame filmmakers if we sometimes confuse the real world with its representations. The truth is that we love movies partly because of their lies, beautiful and not. It’s journalists and politicians who owe us the truth.