Triumph of the Will is one of the most important films ever made. Not because it documents evil–more watchable examples are being made today. And not as a historical example of blind propaganda–those (much shorter) movies are merely laughable now. No, Riefenstahl’s masterpiece–and it is a masterpiece, politics aside–combines the strengths of documentary and propaganda into a single, overwhelmingly powerful visual force. Riefenstahl was hired by the Reich to create an eternal record of the 1934 rally at Nuremberg, and that’s exactly what she does. You might not become a Nazi after watching her film, but you will understand too clearly how Germany fell under Hitler’s spell. The early crowd scenes remind one of nothing so much as Beatles concert footage (if only their fans were so well behaved!). Like the fascists it monumentalizes, Triumph of the Will overlooks its own weaknesses–at nearly two hours, the speeches tend to drone on, and the repeated visual motifs are a little over-hypnotic, especially for modern viewers. But the occasional iconic vista (banners lining the streets of Nuremberg, Hitler parting a sea of 200,000 party members standing at attention) will electrify anyone into wakefulness.