Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fact vs. Fiction: TRIUMPH OF THE WILL vs. OCTOBER By Constantin von Hoffmeister

Both Leni Riefenstahl’s TRIUMPH OF

THE WILL and Sergei Eisenstein’s OCTOBER are propaganda films of the highest caliber, both in content and execution.
While Riefenstahl focuses on the exploitation of National Socialist imagery itself, Eisenstein focuses on the recreation of a pivotal stage in the Soviet class struggle.

Both films succeed in trying to manipulate the audience’s political ‘Weltanschauung’ by employing various innovative cinematic techniques, such as bold editing and mesmerizing images that linger seemingly forever on the screen (e.g., the endless National Socialist parades in TRIUMPH OF THE
WILL). One has to understand, though, that National Socialism and Communism were almost diametrically opposed on the contemporary political spectrum.
While National Socialism tried to focus on the betterment of the Nordic race, Communism tried to encompass all of humanity.

Richard Taylor argues that almost no film exists of the October Revolution. The Soviets were able to use this fact to their advantage. They started to establish “a basis of historical legitimacy for their regime and the absence of adequate documentary evidence gave Soviet film makers a golden opportunity for the re-creation of the realities of Russian history, and for some improvement on them.” (Taylor 93) This, of course, means that the Soviets did nothing more than glorify the construction of their Bolshevist state. They were able to do so because they had total control of the media (it was, after all, a totalitarian regime).

By employing such a famous director as Eisenstein they gave themselves double credit; one for having such a creative genius on board, second for Eisenstein (the great artist that he was) being able to transcend mere dramatization of the event. As V. Pudovkin argues, “The Soviet artist…must
feel that his creation is constantly dependent on the needs and interests of the people….” (Pudovkin 51) This is to say that the artist should cater to the needs of the people to be fooled into believing that they truly live in a worker’s paradise. Of course, Eisenstein was well aware of that intention when he shot OCTOBER, as is plain obvious when one views the sheer stylized form and content of it.

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