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Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty (1938)

Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit (original title)
Not Rated | | Documentary, Sport | 29 March 1940 (USA)
The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin, orchestrated as Nazi propaganda.

Director:

Leni Riefenstahl
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Cast

Credited cast:
Sheigo Arai ... Himself - Swimmer, Japan
Jack Beresford ... Himself - Rower, Britain
Ralf Berzsenyi Ralf Berzsenyi ... Himself - Small-Bore Rifle, Hungary
Ferenc Csík Ferenc Csík ... Himself - Swimmer, Hungary
Richard Degener Richard Degener ... Himself - Springboard Diver, USA
Willemijntje den Ouden Willemijntje den Ouden ... Herself - Swimmer, Holland
Charles des Jammonières Charles des Jammonières ... Himself - Free Pistol, France
Velma Dunn ... Herself - Platfom Diver, USA
Konrad Frey ... Himself - Gymnastics, Germany
Marjorie Gestring Marjorie Gestring ... Herself - Springboard Diver, USA
Albert Greene Albert Greene ... Himself - Springboard Diver, USA
Tetsuo Hamuro Tetsuo Hamuro ... Himself - 1st Place: 200m Breaststroke, Japan
Josef Hasenöhrl Josef Hasenöhrl ... Himself - Single Sculls Rower, Austria
Heinz Hax Heinz Hax ... Himself - Rapid-Fire Pistol, Germany
Adolf Hitler ... 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

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Germany

Language:

German

Release Date:

29 March 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Olymp II See more »

Filming Locations:

Berlin, Germany

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Producer Winfield R. Sheehan and his wife, Viennese opera singer Maria Jeritza offered to help Riefenstahl to find a US distributor for the film, but no contract ever materialised. See more »

Alternate Versions

It is well known that both parts of Olympia were made in three language versions - English, French, and German. Less well known is that each version is slightly different from one another. Additionally, at least with the English version, Riefenstahl frequently altered prints. The prints distributed on 16mm film in the 1960s did not have a boxing sequence, whereas current prints do (although the dialogue for the boxing sequence is in German). Even less well known is that upon its original release in the United States (1940), the Diving Sequence was about 1 minute longer than its current version (attentive soundtrack listeners can clearly hear the abrupt break in the music). This longer version of the Diving Sequence can be seen at the Anthology Film Archives (whose print comes from Raymond Rohauer) and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City. See more »

Connections

Featured in Ai yori ai e (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

Calligraphic dance
15 July 2012 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

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

Olympia Part I 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 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 with and decides the weight of its partner. She achieves here pure weightlessness.

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 the least interesting of her work, always were. Yes, 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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