A Study of Nazism in Feature Films

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A Study of Nazism in Feature Films

In this coursework, I will be looking at how films made in the past

one hundred years or so have portrayed the Nazis in different ways.

There are three films we have been looking at with a common subject.

These are Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), directed by Leni

Riefenstahl (1934); Cabaret (1972), dir. Bob Fosse and Schindler's

List (1993), dir. Steven Spielberg. The essay also looks at one

episode from The Lion King (1994), dir. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff.

All these films in some way look at the subject of Nazism, except for

The Lion King which refers explicitly to Triumph of the Will. We will

be looking at the different filmic techniques used in these films, and

the effects they have on the audience.

Triumph of the Will is a documentary film, written and directed by

Leni Riefenstahl, a former actress. The film is a record of the 1934

Nazi Party Rally at Nuremberg. Triumph of the Will is rarely seen

today, because it celebrates Nazism and glorifies Hitler. Leni

Riefenstahl claimed after the war not to have known about the

treatment of Jews in Germany. She may not have known about the

Holocaust, but must have seen how Jewish people were persecuted, as

this was public policy (and mostly popular with the German people).

However, Triumph of the Will was made in 1934, five years before war

broke out, at a time when Germany was on good terms with the UK.

In the opening frames of the film, we see a view of clouds from an

aeroplane. We see shots of the mediaeval city of Nuremberg, and then

the shadow of an aeroplane passing over it. In the plane is Hitler,

and we see crowds marching in...

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...ne is also quite shocking. It is an

up-beat, happy-tempo tune. This fits pretty well with the dancers, but

when we see the image change to the club owner being beaten up, the

music does not change. So we have this jolly music backing a crime


After analysis of all three films we can make a conclusion of the

three director’s attitudes towards Hitler’s Germany and Nazism. We can

say that Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph des Willens) - a keen supporter of


Bob Fosse (Cabaret) - critical, but also interested in how the Nazis

came to power. We see the results of violence.

Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List) - a powerful sense of what it

means to be a Jew today, and to recall the horrors of the Second World

War and the Holocaust. Schindler's List is a more graphic account with

repeated images of violence.
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