Masumoto, Naofumi. “Interpretations of the Filmed Body: An Analysis of the Japanese Version of Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia.” Critical Reflections on Olympic Ideology. Centre for Olympic Studies, 1994. 146-158. 31 Mar. 2008 <http://www.la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/ISOR/ISOR1994t.pdf>.
This article analyzes the Japanese version of Olympia and explores its relationship to contemporary Olympic events. While it touches on a wide variety of questions such as the film’s political implications, its focus is on the aestheticization of the human body, particularly of the strong and victorious. It suggests that Olympia was not so much a document of the 1936 Olympics as it was a unified body of art. While the article acknowledges the historical context of the film and its influence, it affirms Riefenstahl’s commitment to producing an artistically free and independent picture. For example, it notes that Riefenstahl beautified the bodies of not just Aryan athletes, but also blacks and Asians, against the wishes of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Additionally, it argues that Riefenstahl’s use of retakes and overdubs serves to discredit the film as a historical documentary but instead supports it as an artistically united statement. It connects the film to today’s Olympics by contrasting its emphasis on beauty with mass commercialization yet also notes the film represents universal and unchanging Olympic ideals.
The article raises several points in the question of the extent that Olympia is propagandistic. Aside from noting the film’s beautification of the human body irrespective of race, the article suggests the film was not propaganda in and of itself, but rather a record of a propagandistic event. On the other hand, the article also spends some time on the introductory sequence in which an Olympic torch is carried from Greece to Berlin, suggesting the Germans as the true descendents of the culturally advanced Greeks. Additionally, it argues that the film’s depiction of Hitler as a typical sports spectator humanized him and was inherently positive.