Thursday, February 25, 2010

116. OLYMPIA (1938)

Running Time: 201 minutes
Directed By: Leni Riefenstahl
Written By: Leni Riefenstahl
Main Cast: Adolf Hitler, Jesse Owens, Josef Goebbels, Forrest Towns, Glenn Morris


I'm really not quite sure how I'm going to write a proper review for this film, but we'll certainly give it a go, just don't expect it to be very long. But, not because it wasn't good, it was actually a great piece of work and an extremely interesting film.

The reason I state that this will be a hard review to write, is simply because the film merely covers various events from the 1936 Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin, Germany and presided over by Adolf Hitler. The games that year were Hitler's way of showcasing the talents and athletic ability of the Third Reich. However, as much as it would seem that this is just another piece of Nazi propaganda, part one is actually a piece of work that can really evoke American patriotism. Many of the events that are showcased in part one are won by Americans, such as: the long jump, 4x400m relay, 110m hurdles, high jump, pole vault and of course, Jesse Owens totally insane running of the 100m race, where the camera gets a nice look at Owens sprinting like a gazelle and finishing the race in 10.3 seconds. Some of the other events showcased in part one include: the marathon race, hammer throw, women's high jump, hop, skip and jump, men and women's javelin throwing, shot put and discus throwing.

I guess the best way to sum up how much I liked this half of the film, would be to tell you that I have NEVER been interested in the Olympic Games, summer or winter. When I was a kid, the only thing that the Olympics meant to me, was just something that interrupted my regular television programming. However, this film really sucked me in and even, at times, had me cheering for my fellow, American countrymen. This film really sucked me into the whole Olympic whirlwind and actually made me respect these athletes more than I ever have in my life. This is a great film, and despite its simplicity, really drags you in and gives you some hardcore emotions to mull over.


This installment picks up right where the previous one left off, showcasing an eclectic group of events. While part one really only had three different types of events: throwing, running and jumping, part two gives us a wide range of games to sink our teeth into, such as: diving, polo, the decathalon, cycling, swimming, soccer, hockey, boxing, rowing, boxing, fencing, equestrian, polo and gymnastics. The title "Festival of Beauty" is an apt one, as Riefenstahl does an immaculate job making the athletes look their best, especially with the more graceful events, such as gymnastics and diving. With diving, she points her camera straight to the sky and allows the silhouettes of the athletes to totally mesmerize the viewer, and let us forget for a moment that a competition is being held. I would have to say that part two contained a few more dull moments than part one, with some slow events, such as: boxing and fencing, however, part two totally redeems itself with the decathalon, which is shown in all it's glory and is quite exciting to watch USA take home the gold, silver and bronze in that particular event.

I would really have to dismiss people who say that this is just another piece of Nazi propaganda, as Riefenstahl isn't shy about showing us the triumphs of other countries, especially the United States. When I did a quick Wikipedia search to see what the final medal count was for the 1936 Summer Games, I found that Germany actually held the most, with thirty-three gold medals and eighty-nine in all. The United States came in second overall with a total of twenty-four gold medals and fifty-six total medals. With that being said, it would have been very easy for Riefenstahl to make this into an all German show. There was nowhere near thirty-three events showcased in the entire 3+ hour film, which means she could've easily stacked the deck with all German victories. Anyway, the bottom line is this: This was definitely one of the greatest documentaries I've ever seen. Now I realize the prospect of a 3+ hour documentary doesn't sound all that enthralling, the time is not an issue, as the whole film really has a good flow to it and the time flies while watching "Olympia". Granted, I didn't watch the entire two parts back-to-back, but I could've easily done so, and I could've watched more, as I was even disappointed that there were some events not showcased, such as: greco-roman wrestling, weightlifting, shooting, handball and football. There could've been a part three and I would've been excited to tear through it.

With "Olympia", Riefenstahl shows off her knack for being able to capture some absolutely breathtaking shots. I often found myself questioning whether or not this was ACTUALLY real life taking place in front of me, as the shots are so visually superb and especially for a documentary. The stats are ungodly: 250 hours of film shot, several hundred members of Riefenstahl's crew and the erection of several steel camera towers, just so she could get the most perfect shots, which she did. While "Triumph of the Will" fell short at capturing my attention, Riefenstahl struts her stuff with "Olympia", to produce a sheer masterpiece.

RATING: 10/10 That's for the whole shebang, and I'm even surprised at that rating myself, but there was honestly nothing wrong with this film and it was grossly engaging, interesting and entertaining.

NEXT UP: The Baker's Wife...Can't find this one, so we'll be back with an unfound post for this one.

February 25, 2010 2:08am

1 comment:

  1. another very brave award of 10.. see my comment to 'Triumph' for broarder reply about Leni R.


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