Let us face it, holocaust surrounding second world war and the Nazi torture of Jews have become a thoroughly over-explored topic. Done to death, yes, but this movie came out in 1989! There was no Schindler's List, no Sorstalanság, no Boy in Striped Pyjama or Life is Beautiful... hell, even Europa Europa or the Last Butterfly released after this movie!
So, Triumph of the Spirit could easily have been a reference material for many a modern classic on holocaust. Even when seen as a standalone movie without the predecessors or successors, this is a good movie. The story is based on true incidents, hence it is quite interesting; historically - almost accurate and direction wise - at par with the best. Most of the characters had been explored richly and the cause- effect relationship behind every sub-plot is quite pronounced. The movie never borders on obscurity, yet ends it with a depth that is so often lacking in movies based on real life.
Performance wise Willem Dafoe and Robert Loggia stands out magnificently. Everyone else does their bit to perfection... no hiccups in acting. Sometimes, a bit of production value is missing that we are so used to these days. (Like in the air-raid scene towards the end, any typical Hollywood movie these days would have wonderful SFX showing allied aircrafts and what not... but here it was just the sound Foley and a bit of pyrotechnic... quite old school but very effective).
If you are a true movie buff and looking forward to relive the 80s style of movie production, go for it. You won't be disappointed.
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