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Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations (1938)

Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker (original title)
The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin.

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
...
Himself - High Jump, USA (uncredited)
...
Himself - 10000 Metres, FIN (uncredited)
...
Himself - Carries British Flag (uncredited)
Erwin Blask ...
Himself - Hammer Throw, German (uncredited)
Sulo Bärlund ...
Himself - Shot Put, Finland (uncredited)
...
Herself - High Jump, Hungary (uncredited)
...
Himself (uncredited)
Henri de Baillet-Latour ...
Himself - IOC, Stands with Hitler, with Hurdlers (uncredited)
Philip Edwards ...
Himself - 800 Metres, Canada (uncredited)
Donald Finlay ...
Himself - 110m Hurdles, GB (uncredited)
...
Herself - Javelin Throw, Germany (uncredited)
Wilhelm Frick ...
Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Joseph Goebbels ...
Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Hermann Göring ...
Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
...
Himself - Marathon, GB (uncredited)
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Storyline

After being commissioned by the 1936 Olympic Committee to create a feature film of the Berlin Olympics, Riefenstahl shot a documentary that celebrates the human body by combining the poetry of bodies in motion with close-ups of athletes in the heat of competition. Includes the marathon, men's diving, and American track star Jesse Owen's sprint races at the 1936 Olympic games. The production tends to glorify the young male body and, some say, expresses the Nazi attitude toward athletic prowess. Includes the lighting of the torch at the stadium and Adolf Hitler looking on in amazement as Jesse Owens wins an unprecedented four Gold Medals. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary | Sport

Certificate:

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Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Release Date:

8 March 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Tobis-Klangfilm)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Leni Riefenstahl's visit to the United States in 1938 was mainly aimed at finding a US distributor for the film. Faced with fierce protests from many American organizations, in particular the 'Anti-Nazi League', her plan never came to fruition. The first screening in the United States was organised in Chicago in November 1938 by Avery Brundage, president of the US Olympic Committee and an ardent Nazi sympathiser. The private reception was hosted by Mrs. Claire Dux Swift, ex-wife of the German film star Hans Albers. The second screening (also private) took place on 14th December 1938 at the California Club in presence of Olympic medalists and screen Tarzans Johnny Weissmuller and Glenn Morris (Riefenstahl's ex-lover), as well as Olympic diver Marjorie Gestring. For this screening, Riefenstahl submitted a copy where she had edited out almost all the scenes featuring Hitler. See more »

Connections

Featured in The 74th Annual Academy Awards (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Olympische Hymnne
Richard Strauss
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User Reviews

 
A masterpiece of camera-work but surely not an easy watch!
24 October 2008 | by (Ireland) – See all my reviews

Whether you think Leni Riefenstahl was a Nazi or not, nobody can deny that she does take a neutral stance in this film. Indeed, it is surprising to hear the American national anthem being played in a German film of the Nazi era. Another gem in the film is to see Leni quietly glorifying the figure of black American athlete Jesse Owens, who famously disappointed Hitler by winning 'too many' medals for his taste. She looks at him as an athlete, and observes his cyborg-like body. When Jesse wins, the people whistle, but that's not important, as the American national anthem will cover them off.

There is no doubt, the strength of this film is the cinematography. Riefenstahl did in Germany what Vertov did in Russia, only her style comes closer to today's tele-reportage than the Russian's. There are other fundamental differences between the two.

Olympia as a whole (part I and 2) stands proudly. Yet, although the real trick was to film the actual footage as it happened, using pioneer effects of slow motion, fast motion and precise framing, the good stuff is found in the recreations, particularly at the start of part II, which portrays a 'gods-like temple' where the athletes relax in sight of their following tests.

It's an admirable work, but as a lot of the old cinema, it is outdated. While 'Triumph of the Will' really wasn't as much (possibly because it's easier to plan an event that takes place in a shorter time, such as the Nuremberg Rally, as a lengthy event like the Olympic games), Olympia is lengthy, and overall, not an easy watch. In some bits, it's hard not to be tempted by the fast forward button on the remote control. But there is no denying that this is another testimony of Leni Riefenstahl's often underrated and mostly willingly obscured influence.


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