Olympia

Olympia

Director: Leni Riefenstahl

Cast: Leni Riefenstahl

     
 

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Having proven her mettle with her still-astonishing propaganda epic Triumph of the Will, German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl furthered her reputation with the two-part Olympia, an all-inclusive filmed record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In its original 220-minute form, the film was designed as a paean to Aryan superiority, likening the strong-limbed youngSee more details below

Overview

Having proven her mettle with her still-astonishing propaganda epic Triumph of the Will, German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl furthered her reputation with the two-part Olympia, an all-inclusive filmed record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In its original 220-minute form, the film was designed as a paean to Aryan superiority, likening the strong-limbed young German athletes with the godlike participants of the ancient Olympic games. By accident or design, however, the film transcends politics, resulting in an across-the-board tribute to all the Olympic partcipants -- even those whose racial makeup did not come up to the "pure" standards established by the Third Reich. This is especially true in the first portion of the film, in which black American runner Jessie Owens emerges as the star. The second half of the film is the more impressive technically, with Riefenstahl utilizing an astonishing variety of camera speeds and angles to record the diving competition. Working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, Riefenstahl and her staff were often denied desirable camera angles, forcing them to improvise with telephoto lenses; the results are often far more dramatically impressive than the up-close-and-personal approach taken by contemporary TV cameramen. After an editing process that took nearly 18 months, Riefenstahl added icing to the cake with a richly evocative soundtrack -- an added touch which, so far as the filmmaker was concerned, "made" the picture. Inasmuch as the German government was still trying to curry favor with the outside world in early 1938, Olympia was shipped out in various reedited versions, each favoring the athletes of the release country. Many English-language versions avoided any references to Hitler or Nazism -- quite a feat, considering the preponderence of swastikas at the Olympic site.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble
Olympia, German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl's two-part documentary of the 1936 Berlin Olympiad, remains fascinating as both a stunning work of cinema and a historical document of Nazi propaganda. Held in Berlin, under the victory-obsessed eyes of Adolf Hitler, the '36 Games were pursued and produced by the Third Reich with extraordinary zeal. In addition to creating gorgeous Olympic facilities and rigorously preparing its athletes (whose 89 medals far outpaced the second-place USA's 56), Germany commissioned Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will) to produce this film -- a tool for sharing its triumphant Olympic moment with the world. Working with the finest black-and-white film equipment and a battery of cameras, Riefenstahl captured the era's leading athletes, often from oddly striking angles and occasionally in slow motion. Competitions unfold in rapid fire with an announcer offering minimal play-by-play. There's little natural sound, and the Sousa-meets-Wagner score often makes it feel like a March of Time episode with an unlimited budget. From its long opening montage -- a 15-minute music-video parade of the buff and the beautiful -- to its close-ups of the various runners and jumpers, swimmers and divers, equestrians and oarsmen, Olympia serves as a paean to the human body at its best. Our favorite highlights: U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens winning four gold medals (Hitler's harrumphing exit from the stadium didn't make the movie, of course) and 13-year-old Marjorie Gestring soaring in the women's diving competition to become -- at the time -- the youngest-ever Olympic champion. Her winning smile is pure elation. -- Gregory P. Fagan
All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
It seems safe to say that Leni Riefenstahl's document of the 1936 Berlin Olympiad will never be surpassed as a record of the greatest spectacle in competitive sports. The only film that has come close -- Kon Ichikawa's Tokyo Olympiad -- was made thanks to the deep pockets of its host country at a time before TV coverage of the games was so pervasive and instant home video compilations of the games became available. Moreover, Riefenstahl, as she demonstrated in the technically brilliant propaganda film Triumph of the Will, had a poet's eye for capturing spectacles on both a grand and intimate scale. Olympia might have been a paean to the Third Reich and the superiority of the German athlete (its prologue, featuring only Aryans in various poses and action sequences, suggests that), but Riefenstahl nimbly sidestepped her Nazi masters to offer if not a completely objective view of the games, at least one which did not stint on the accomplishments of runners, jumpers, and swimmers from many nations and of many ethnic backgrounds. If a filmmaker not employed by the Third Reich had made this picture, he or she might have included all of the implicit comparisons between the Nazi athletes and the ancient Greeks who posed for classic sculptures, but that filmmaker also would not have possessed Riefenstahl's eye for composition and movement.

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Product Details

Release Date:
04/16/2013
UPC:
0844503002297
Original Release:
1938
Source:
Legend Films
Time:
3:24:00
Sales rank:
33,795

Cast & Crew

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Olympia
1. Chapter 1 [12:16]
2. Chapter 2 [:25]
3. Chapter 3 [:25]
4. Chapter 4 [:25]
5. Chapter 5 [:25]
6. Chapter 6 [:25]
7. Chapter 7 [:25]
8. Chapter 8 [:11]
9. Chapter 9 [:14]
10. Chapter 10 [:25]
11. Chapter 11 [:25]
12. Chapter 12 [:25]
13. Chapter 13 [:25]
14. Chapter 14 [:25]
15. Chapter 15 [:25]
16. Chapter 16 [:25]
17. Chapter 17 [:25]
18. Chapter 18 [:25]
19. Chapter 19 [:25]
20. Chapter 20 [:25]
21. Chapter 21 [:25]
22. Chapter 22 [:25]
23. Chapter 23 [:25]
24. Chapter 24 [:25]
25. Chapter 25 [:25]
26. Chapter 26 [:25]
27. Chapter 27 [:25]
28. Chapter 28 [:25]
29. Chapter 29 [:25]
30. Chapter 30 [:25]
31. Chapter 31 [:14]
32. Chapter 32 [:11]
33. Chapter 33 [:25]
34. Chapter 34 [:25]
35. Chapter 35 [:25]
36. Chapter 36 [:25]
37. Chapter 37 [:25]
38. Chapter 38 [:25]
39. Chapter 39 [:25]
40. Chapter 40 [:25]
41. Chapter 41 [:25]
42. Chapter 42 [:25]
43. Chapter 43 [:25]
44. Chapter 44 [:25]
45. Chapter 45 [:25]
46. Chapter 46 [:25]
47. Chapter 47 [:25]
48. Chapter 48 [:25]
49. Chapter 49 [:25]
50. Chapter 50 [:25]
51. Chapter 51 [:25]
52. Chapter 52 [:25]
53. Chapter 53 [:25]
54. Chapter 54 [:25]
55. Chapter 55 [:25]
56. Chapter 56 [17:32]
57. Chapter 57 [25:47]
58. Chapter 58 [22:36]
59. Chapter 59 [14:33]
1. Chapter 1 [14:51]
2. Chapter 2 [17:24]
3. Chapter 3 [12:27]
4. Chapter 4 [23:30]
5. Chapter 5 [12:41]
6. Chapter 6 [7:21]

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