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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.


Leni Riefenstahl
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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


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>

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Documentary | Sport


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

29 March 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Olymp II See more »

Filming Locations:

Berlin, Germany

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


In the final scenes, just after Speer's 'Lichtdom' or Cathedral of Light is revealed, there is a procession of flags. The 7th flag, that of Portugal is hung upside down on its pole. The same mistake is shown again a few seconds later as the wreaths are placed on the finials. 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 »

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User Reviews

The seminal 'Sport' film...
30 August 2016 | by ElMaruecan82See all my reviews

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.

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