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Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty (1938)
"Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit" (original title)

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Reviews: 13 user | 13 critic

The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin, orchestrated as Nazi propaganda.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Sheigo Arai ...
Himself - Swimmer, Japan
Jack Beresford ...
Himself - Rower, Britain
Ralf Berzsenyi ...
Himself - Small-Bore Rifle, Hungary
Ferenc Csík ...
Himself - Swimmer, Hungary
Richard Degener ...
Himself - Springboard Diver, USA
Willemijntje den Ouden ...
Herself - Swimmer, Holland
Charles des Jammonières ...
Himself - Free Pistol, France
Velma Dunn ...
Herself - Platfom Diver, USA
Konrad Frey ...
Himself - Gymnastics, Germany
Marjorie Gestring ...
Herself - Springboard Diver, USA
Albert Greene ...
Himself - Springboard Diver, USA
Tetsuo Hamuro ...
Himself - 1st Place: 200m Breaststroke, Japan
Josef Hasenöhrl ...
Himself - Single Sculls Rower, Austria
Heinz Hax ...
Himself - Rapid-Fire Pistol, Germany
...
Himself
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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. The production tends to glorify the young male body and, some say, expresses the Nazi attitude toward athletic prowess. Miss Riefenstahl captures the grace of athletes during field hockey, soccer, bicycling, equestrian, aquatic and gymnastic events. Highlights are the Pentathlon and the Decathlon, which was won by American Glenn Morris; it ends with the triumphant conclusion of the games. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary | Sport

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Details

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Release Date:

29 March 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

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 »

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Spoofed in Der Wixxer (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Calligraphic dance
15 July 2012 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

This is the one to watch, Riefenstahl's masterpiece. Das Blaue Licht is great but dares less. You know about Triumph; that film was all about the people being choreographed to embody a new identity, destructive and all that.

The bulk of Olympia Part I was dry, sometimes dramatic sports coverage. It seemed dull because everything she pioneered in that film is now common vernacular in the filming of sports. Oh, the film had moments of beauty but it was constrained in key ways. It was constrained by Hitler being there. By nations parading and saluting. You could not fail to note that all of it, much more subtle than Triumph, in the end impressed as a show staged to promote a German image, much more subtle because the image was of normalcy and spontaneous celebration.

This is a different thing. You probably know that Riefenstahl was a dancer before making her transition to film, you can see her dance in one of her first films as an actress. All of her own films are about choreographed sculpted form, but this is her most pure, the one most purely about cinematic dance and the body.

Eisenstein filmed active crowds in radical collision that creates a world (now his devices are every bit as commonplace as Riefenstahl's but in a different milieu). She films crowds as cheerful observers of vigor. Most of all, she films the body as the fulcrum of harmonious expression that seduces the camera that seduces us seeing and being affected by this. It doesn't matter if the world is changed, or maybe she trusted that it had a few years back, it only matters that the soul

  • theirs at the moment, ours cinematically - can brush against the


heavens.

Each sport is a framework that dictates its own dance. Each dance is slightly different and calls for a different camera. The body is free but within confines of the sport. The camera is similarly free to draw its dynamic calligraphy within edges of the frame.

In the regatta for instance, white sails group and re-group in swanlike formations and contrast with sailors throwing their weight around the boats and pulling ropes. Cyclists and rowers pass one the other in horizontal forward-dashing and overlap. Boxers are locked in gristly tango. Horse-riders glide over mud as though skating inches above-ground. The gymnastics are all about eddy and suspension in mid-air. In the polo sequence, the dance is all between tracing the zigzag flow of the game and Kurosawa-like whip-pans of the riders smashing against vertical beams in the far background. Other sequences like swimming and football are less interesting.

Above all, of course, stand the celebrated divers. You can tell that Riefenstahl loved them (she counted an Olympic medalist diver among her lovers) by how imaginatively she filmed this bit and saving it for last.

This notion is never more clear, of a camera that dances and decides the weight of its partner. She achieves here pure weightlessness. But this has been written extensively about everywhere else.

In light of this, the closing ceremony of fire and celestial light - now common tropes of Olympic shows - is on top of ludicrous simply redundant. Her explicit bits of Wagnerian worldview are for me the least interesting of her work, always were. Yes, the Nazis must have been enormously pleased by her artistry of transcendent sensuality. It still looks dull-witted and overwrought.

On the flipside of that is her floating calligraphic eye that was unparalleled at this time.


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