There is no other filmmaker remotely like Leni Riefenstahl, which is probably a good thing. The prodigiously gifted Riefenstahl, at Hitler's behest, transformed the 1934 Nuremberg rally into the stunning, terrifying documentary Triumph of the Will
. Her next challenge was the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, a task she undertook with technical innovations and an unfailing aesthetic eye. The games are of historical interest; Berlin was where the black American runner Jesse Owens dominated his sport, much to Hitler's chagrin. But Riefenstahl's long film (it's often shown in two parts) is more than just a document. Olympia
is also a delirious paean to movement, competition, and the human body. The diving meet becomes less a battle for medals and more a dreamlike series of shapes in mesmerizing motion. While Olympia
has often been described as Riefenstahl's hymn to beauty, it is also her hymn to the possibilities of cinema, of the sheer magic of camera angle and rhythm and light. After two years of exhausting editing, the film premiered on April 20, 1938--Hitler's birthday. If only Riefenstahl had turned her back on her Führer, she might be remembered as one of the mightiest directors in film history, instead of the most notorious. As it is, Pauline Kael once described Riefenstahl's Triumph
as "the two greatest films ever directed by a woman." --Robert Horton
Leni Riefenstahl's record of the 1936 Berlin Olympiad was instantly recognized as a masterpiece of photography and sound. The landmark sports documentary is divided into two independent, equally breathtaking, parts. Save when you purchase both films in the Olympia Prepack.