Projection Sequences

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We knew that Leni Riefenstahl's documentary/propaganda film Triumph of the Will could provide iconographic images of Hitler and of Nazi pageantry, but we found that its copyright was disputed. In fact, we also learned that many American newsreels that were made during wartime incorporated German films. The Americans considered these films to be captured enemy war materials. The Germans considered them to be copyrighted. After the war, the U.S. government had apparently acceded to the German contention that their copyrights were valid, at least in Germany, while maintaining that they were public domain in the United States. While I was cutting the projection sequences, Producer/Visual Effects Supervisor David D. Johnson navigated the labyrinth of international copyright conventions and negotiated with the German government. I attempted to cut alternate versions of the projected sequences which excluded all the potentially-copyrighted material. In the final analysis, we found that we couldn't exclude all this material and still have viable projected sequences. We also found that Leni Riefenstahl's images were so strikingly superior to all the rest, even other Nazi films which she might have directed, that, in the end, we licensed the rights to a limited amount of Triumph of the Will.

We wanted to find images that would reflect and illuminate Hitler's evolving state of mind. We thought of the notorious medical experiments the Nazis undertook, and we thought of Hitler's racial dementia. I went to the History of Medicine Museum at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. I thought that it might have films depicting experiments, operations, and human deformities which could become nightmarish if cut together in disjointed ways. It turned out that there were many disturbing films at this museum, but only a few of them could be used for the purposes we had in mind.

Time was short so there were many potentially relevant films we did not have time to view. During a week of viewing, we made low-quality video copies of lots of footage. I returned to Los Angeles and reviewed the footage with the creative team. We selected the films we thought were promising. Working with David D. Johnson, we obtained the highest quality duplicates of these films, which we digitized and edited on an Avid Film Composer nonlinear editing system. Avid editing technology allowed us to visualize many kinds of manipulations of the film, e.g., layering, zooming, and speed-change capabilities.