I just watched a film so masterful that I literally felt I had time traveled to 1936 in Germany. I wanted to see the Olympic crew race from our One Book One Community book this year, The Boys in the Boat, and learned that we have the original, amazing Leni Riefenstahl documentary film of the 1936 Olympic Games in our library DVD collection.
It’s called Olympia, and it is so much more than a sports documentary, although it may be one of the finest sports documentaries ever made. Riefenstahl edits the sports action to delight any audience, it’s quick moving and fascinating to see how some sports have changed so much, and others not at all. If you only want to watch a short time, you can hop to the last chapter in the 2 disc set and see about 5-10 minutes of equestrian footage that is as amusing as it is historically educational, and watch, like a lurker in the 1936 crowd of hysterical fans, the Washington “Boys in the Boat” win Gold.
The beauty and expertise of Riefenstahl’s filmmaking cannot be understated. She ties the Olympics’ classical Greek roots to the 1936 present with stunning photographic technique.
I started out planning to watch the 5-10 minutes only, to see the crew race, and ended up going back to the beginning to watch ‘just a little bit more’, and then planning to watch the entire 3 hours….it is that good. Seeing Hitler as a person, in candid moments, seeing the crowds, the assemblage of nations in that wrought hour of history, unbeknownst to many, the pageantry and cutting edge photography, well, indulge yourself in some time travel, and check out “Olympia” (the DVD) for yourself!