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Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations (1938)

Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker (original title)
Not Rated | | Documentary, Sport | 8 March 1940 (USA)
The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin.

Director:

Leni Riefenstahl
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Cast

Uncredited cast:
David Albritton ... Himself - High Jump, USA (uncredited)
Arvo Askola ... Himself - 10000 Metres, FIN (uncredited)
Jack Beresford ... Himself - Carries British Flag (uncredited)
Erwin Blask Erwin Blask ... Himself - Hammer Throw, German (uncredited)
Sulo Bärlund Sulo Bärlund ... Himself - Shot Put, Finland (uncredited)
Ibolya Csák ... Herself - High Jump, Hungary (uncredited)
Glenn Cunningham ... Himself (uncredited)
Henri de Baillet-Latour ... Himself - IOC, Stands with Hitler, with Hurdlers (uncredited)
Philip Edwards Philip Edwards ... Himself - 800 Metres, Canada (uncredited)
Donald Finlay Donald Finlay ... Himself - 110m Hurdles, GB (uncredited)
Tilly Fleischer ... Herself - Javelin Throw, Germany (uncredited)
Wilhelm Frick Wilhelm Frick ... Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Joseph Goebbels ... Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Hermann Göring ... Himself - Spectator (uncredited)
Ernest Harper ... 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:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Germany

Release Date:

8 March 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Olympiad See more »

Filming Locations:

Acropolis, Athens, Greece See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Tobis-Klangfilm)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Riefenstahl prepared five different cuts of the film tailored for export to other countries, versions in which the original footage she had filmed of Hitler and of swastikas was downplayed. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Goebbels Experiment (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Olympische Hymnne
Richard Strauss
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A masterpiece of camera-work but surely not an easy watch!
24 October 2008 | by peapulationSee 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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