More has been written about Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia than about any other sports documentary in history. Well, “documentary” is inaccurate, for a start. Dissatisfied with the light or other conditions in the stadia, Riefenstahl prevailed on certain athletes (including some gymnasts and her inamorato Glenn Morris, the U.S. decathlon champion) to return when the crowds had dispersed, so that she could film them reenacting their winning leaps. Transcending indeed the bounds of documentary, Olympia apotheosizes athletic endeavor in the same way that Riefenstahl’s earlier film Triumph of the Will, even more infamously, recorded Adolf Hitler’s sublimation before the vast crowds at the Nuremberg Rally of 1934.

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The Criterion Collection
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German (Stereo)

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