In reading the Devereaux article, I  generally found myself agreeing with it until page 250 where I came to a grinding halt at this quote:

.. Triumph of the Will is flawed.  It is flawed because its vision is flawed.  Its vision is flawed because it misrepresents the character of Hitler and National Socialism and because it presents as beautiful and good things that are evil, namely Hitler and National Socialism … the film’s vision of National Socialism is part of the work of art that it is.  If that vision is flawed, then so is the work of art.

There is a huge assumption in this quote that goes (I believe) unmentioned in the rest of the article.  This assumption is that art must be truthful.  Devereaux asserts that Triumph of the Will is flawed because it presents as good something that is evil; it, in effect, lies to us.  This is an analysis of art that seems to rely on the intent of the author.  What if (in a theoretical alternate world) the entire movie had been created as a statement – by showing Hitler as benevolent, what if Riefenstahl’s intent had been to reveal how ridiculous or untruthful it was to portray him this way?  Then would this be a work of art because it would be “truthful”?  I’m kind of just perplexed by the whole concept – art is not true.  We can’t apply the scientific measures of truth and reality to art.  What about fictional novels?  What about paintings of scenes that do not and never existed?  What about drawings done in a particular style that are not photorealistic – not “true”?  Am I misinterpreting Devereaux’s intentions here?  I think that the cognitive dissonance created by Trumph of the Will is a huge part of what makes it so interesting, and I’d personally much rather use “interesting” as a criteria for art than “truth”.

Edit: I think part of this assumption maybe comes from her standard of art later on in the page: “the unity of beauty and goodness is a standard by which art should be measured.”  I think that this standard is extremely debatable.

Advertisements