- Festival of Beauty is Absolutely Correct! 8/25/1999 12:00:00 AM by Grand
Rarely -- perhaps never before or since -- has the sheer beauty of the human body and the joy in its perfection been as well captured as in in "Olympia, Festival of Beauty". Watching this is film is to capture some sense of what the Ancient Greeks meant when they discussed _arete_ -- the "virtue" of being "beautiful" in body and soul. The great Humanists of the Renaissance would have been honored to count Miss Riefenstahl among their number had they been able, by some miracle, to see this canvas of Beauty in motion. As art, this film ranks with the works of Michaelangelo, Donatello, Phidias, and others who have scaled the empyrean heights and seen Humanity looking back at them. Poignant is the dolorous thought that within a few years so many of these paragons of _arete_ would be killed in the War. It is no wonder that Joseph Goebbels was said to have disliked Riefenstahl -- while she (even in "Triumph of the Will") held a mirror to the beauty of humanity and its highest aspirations, he dredged up the most noxious evils of the soul and twisted them into images of fear & horror; while she emphasized unity and camaraderie, he stressed division & distrust in order to secure his own vile position under the Fuhrer whom they both viewed so differently. Miss Riefenstahl portrayed people of all races and nations at the most sublime pinnacle of their own perfection, while a few years later Walt Disney and the Warner Brothers gave us buck-toothed Japanese midgets and paunchy German robots as The Inhuman Enemy. Today, however, it is SHE who is reviled. The more things change ... the more they remain the same
- Seen with Part 1, a major achievement in sport and film 5/9/2002 12:00:00 AM by Agent10
If this film was never made, the current camera movements and angles we see today on television would probably never exist. Given unquestionable freedom, Leni Riefenstahl created a film which is bold in composition and visual aptitude. The motions of athleticism are caught beautifully, especially the diving sequence and the running sequences. While many will say Riefenstahl was a pro-Nazi film maker, one cannot deny the innovation she instilled in the art of film making. If you can take the near 4-hour running time and the fact there is no dialogue in the film, then experience this film for the power and breathtaking visuals, not the supposed pro-Nazi agenda.
- The seminal 'Sport' film... 8/30/2016 12:00:00 AM by ElMaruecan82
Reviewing the first opus of Leni Riefenstahl's documentary epic "Olympia", titled "Festival of Nations", I remarked that its idealistic content reflected our unconscious hypocrisy.
Indeed, we label a film as propaganda because it's supposedly meant to exalt the pride of belonging to a nation while this is exactly what any sporting event does today. If it's an exaltation of superiority of any sort, the movie, as a documentary, never hid the victories and never pretended Jesse Owens didn't win. The film wasn't propaganda, it just had the misfortune to be made for a regime that could use it in order to demonstrate the power of Germany as the host country, but not as a physically superior people, so one of the best alibis "Olympia" could come up with is that it never made the Nazis' point.
But it made sport's point and I don't think there's another documentary that provided such a glorious recollection of various sporting events, we're just so carried away by understandable hostile sentiments conveyed by the film's historical context that we fail to appreciate it for what it is: a hymn to the beauty of sport. And if the first opus focused on competition, the second is more lighthearted, so to speak, focusing on the beauty period, the youthful magnificence of the human body in action. And it's only fitting that the art of motion picture could finally magnify and sublimate so many movements we take for granted. "Olympia" raises the awareness of the sport appeal and in many ways, can be regarded as the seminal 'sport' film.
The film is full of the same slow motions that proved their efficiency in the first opus during the opening sequence, and the technique culminated at the defining diving event, where for the first time, the competition ceased to matter and sport wasn't a mean anymore, but an end, a way to express the inner potential of the body. Riefenstahl exhilarated the beauty of a male body in such a revolutionary way she literally invented the soft-core porn. As even the straightest of men can't look at Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps' bodies without a slight bit of envy and admiration, and maybe it took the eye of a female director to finally reconcile us with our homoerotic tendencies, like it took the Renaissance male painters and sculptors to deify the female body. The French title of "Olympia" is even more eloquent as it says "Gods of Stadium", an expression still referring to modern athletes.
But things seem to have evolved on that matter: by the time the Olympic games stop, the Paralympics start, and this might be what dates the film, its focus on the good, healthy and able body. We should all be glad to live in a world that awards the strength and achievement of the human spirit and its triumph over the handicap. That said, cinema or documentary is all about sight and sound, and we can't pretend that the sight of a missing leg or arm is as pleasing to the eyes... without feeling a bit hypocritical. And those who praise the spirit of the Paralympics, do they watch the games? Do they know the athletes' names? Now, while "Festival of Beauty" is a hymn to strength and grace and physical ability, I'm not sure if it is outdated or modern by these standards. Have we really stopped to care about strength and beauty?
It's funny how "Olympia" keeps on revealing human hypocrisy while we cast our stones at Riefenstahl. Let's face it, one of the appeal of sport is to provide us some beautiful sights, the beauty of the body and the harmony in the movements, and men have always sought beauty, harmony and strength in any form, and with such tools as Riefenstahl's camera and directing skills, cinema finally made it possible. Contrarily to the first opus, we don't see much of the politicians as they were not exactly physically appealing, Riefenstahl was obviously in love with sportspeople, whether for the muscular bodies or the voluptuous forms, and never had a camera been so in love with human physicality. Of course, she didn't invent the slow motion or the smash cut, she didn't invent the low angles or any of these creative tricks used in German expressionism, but she was the first director to use them for sport and now they became staples in sport filming.
Watch any sports channel; any montage will borrow from Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia". She elevated sports to a status that would forever be connected with the camera. It's impossible to watch "Olympia" without connecting it to anything related to sports. Riefenstahl was the first to understand that the motion pictures wasn't just meant to tell fictional stories, it could simply be about pure and basic motion and only the magic and the power of camera could translate these basic movements into magnificent choreographs. Any sports film, TV show or documentary borrows from "Olympia", that's for the legacy.
Now, concluding my two reviews of "Olympia", I'm not the devil's advocate, I just believe it is unfair to blame Riefenstahl for not having foreseen what non-German people couldn't predict as well. Not quite the same alibi as "Triumph of the Will" because foreigners, athletes and politicians were present and no one saw. Maybe the sight of these 'Gods of Stadium' blinded them? they didn't see it was just a truce, a silent truce before the storm starts with its streak of persecutions and invasions, maybe the whole world was fooled indeed. But the athletes played the game, played it fair, with honor and sincerity and by capturing their exploits, Riefenstahl set the new standards of the sport genre.
So, contrarily to "Triumph of the Will", "Olympia" is one great film not just for the historical magnitude, but also for its aesthetic value and its cinematic influence. "Olympia" is a film any movie lover should admire.
- Brilliant yet often dull.... 12/1/2011 12:00:00 AM by MartinHafer
For the most part, this is just a continuation of the first part of "Olympia"--a documentary about the 1936 Berlin Olympics made by the notorious Leni Reifenstahl. Unlike her slobbering lover letter to Hitler in "Triumph of the Will", the "Olympia" films are NOT filled with German propaganda but are incredibly artistic films. They are filled with some of the best camera-work you'll ever see--and put more modern Olympic documentaries to shame in this regard. The films are gorgeous.
The film begins with a lot of nudity--just like "Part One". This time, it's full of naked men doing all sorts of outdoorsy things--swimming, lounging, running and hanging out in the sauna. While it was not intended, there sure seemed to be a strong homo-erotic quality about it. But I assume the real purpose was to show an idealized view of modern Germans--like they are descendants of the original Greek athletes. Regardless, it's a lot of naked blond men cavorting about...artistically.
Like "Part One", following this very artsy beginning, the rest of the film is a straight documentary showing the various Summer Olympic events. In all cases, the camera-work was brilliant. But the ones that REALLY struck me were the yachting scenes. How Riefenstahl and her crew did these shots is a mystery. I THINK they tagged along in boats and shot some of the scenes with a telephoto lens. Others, I suspect, were re-created for the film to give it added close-up realism. Regardless, the camera shots were amazing.
Unfortunately, however, like "Part One", the film got VERY dull because just showing event after event got tedious--especially since the viewers have no idea who any of these folks are and the events occurred 73 years ago. Of course it looked great and was supremely composed...but still kind of dull. My feeling is that if you are a film snob, cinemaniac or appreciate art films, watch this and the first installment. Others might just find it a tough viewing.
By the way--get a load of the gymnastic events. First, the participants were only men. Second, they all performed outdoors! Interesting how times have changed!
- Even more beautiful as part 1. 8/6/2008 12:00:00 AM by Boba_Fett1138
This is an even more beautiful looking documentary than was the case with the first Riefenstahl 1936 Olympics documentary "Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der V?lker". Perhaps it's because this movie focuses more on the more gracious looking sports, than was the case in the first movie, which focused purely on the sports being played within the Olympic stadium. Or perhaps it's also because the Netherlands actually won some gold medals in this part ;). This movie mostly focuses on all of the other sport being played outside of the stadium, indoors and outdoors. Sports such as fencing, boxing, swimming, hockey and everything else you can expect during the Olympics. Most sports are still featured now days at the Olympics. It's of course great seeing all those rs and how they were being played back then in 1936. Some things (for the better) have really changed.
Because of the more wide diversity of sports, the documentary also seems like it's going faster as well. Basically every 5 minutes we get to see a completely different sport, being set also at a totally different location again. It also perhaps makes all more exciting to watch as well.
Just like "Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der V?lker" it's a beautifully shot documentary, that set the standards for future documentary making. Leni Riefenstahl was a real pioneer in documentary making, regardless of what you think of her motives. Many of the used techniques are now common to the filming of sports.
This movie also definitely feels less propaganda like than was still the case with "Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der V?lker". It still remains a weird sight though, seeing German officers helping out the athletes, as Olympic officials. This of course got very all well organized and planned out by Nazi authorities, which basically used the 1936 as one big piece of propaganda. At least it doesn't show as much of Hitler (actually no Hitler at all) and Nazi flag waving as was the case in the first part.
A great and important achievement in the filming of sport and documentary making in particular, from Leni Riefenstahl.