18 July 2012

Film review: Olympia (1936), by Leni Riefenstahl ***


A documentary of the 1936 Summer Olympic games held in Berlin.


This is undoubdtedly great photography, and controversial director Riefenstahl was very innovative in her positioning of the camera, especially in the low angle. For its time, it was a masterpiece.

Today I find it a bit boring. The sequence of events is monotonous and repetitive.

Interesting to hear the British version commentator cheer for a "European" runner (who happened to be an Italian) runner when an American and a Canadian were in the lead in the 800 meters. An indication that at the time the ideological differences between fascist Italy and democratic Britain did not prevent him to voice sympathy for a fellow European when competing against an American.

Also interesting to hear him use of the term"negro" when referring to black athletes. This is of course politically incorrect today, but did not have a pejorative connotation at that time. Indeed, Martin Luther King and Leopold Senghor used the word even much later.

Funny to see swimmers as they swam "breast stroke" also with butterfly strokes, at will, as it was not differentiated at the time.

The audio in this DVD is pretty bad, could have been remastered better.

An interesting piece of history nonetheless.

Buy the US version here

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