The Olympia Diving Sequence

1938, Olympia-Film

When Leni Riefenstahl produced a documentary about the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin for Adolph Hitler, she largely ignored his mandate to make a propaganda piece for his regime. The result was a groundbreaking film that utilized many innovative techniques that we take for granted today. At 226 minutes total (for two parts), it's a but much to wade through, especially since a fair portion of it is just a summarization of events. But one four-minute portion, the penultimate scene, is famous for encapsulating all of Riefenstahl's remarkable techniques. The Olympia Diving Sequence, as it's come to be known by some, can easily stand on its own as a brilliant short film, and indeed it was often shown as such—I first saw it in high school on 16mm film, and it stuck with me ever since. Some decades ago, I managed to find a VHS tape of the complete film (the cover art is shown at right), and ripped a DVD copy of the diving sequence for my video library. I only wish more of the documentary was as artfully done.

       

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