Mandell, Richard D. The Nazi Olympics. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971.
Richard D. Mandell’s work on the 1936 Olympics provides a notably positive overview of Olympia in his chapter “The Olympics Preserved.” The chapter begins with background information about Riefenstahl, her career, and her close relationship with Hitler. Mandell then turns to the film itself and notes its technical achievements in areas such as editing and its use of zoom lenses and slow motion, which ultimately contributed to a dramatic cinematic experience that was unprecedented in sports film. Mandell likens Riefenstahl in the editing process of the film to composing a masterpiece more than a documentary film. He then spends some time analyzing particular scenes to reveal their drama and beauty, but notes that the second part of the film, “Festival of Beauty,” is less successful than the first because it is more disjointed and varied. The chapter ends with a discussion of Riefenstahl’s disgrace after World War II for her associations with the Nazi party, a fate the author considers lamentable given her artistic genius.
Mandell’s appraisal of Olympia is mostly positive, and he considers the film to be largely non-political and lacking in propagandistic content. He points out the prominence of black and Asian athletes in the film as evidence of the film’s disassociation with racist Nazi beliefs. He acknowledges that the mass exercise scene is reminiscent of the grand and awe-inspiring shots of Triumph of the Will, but contends that it is nonpolitical and only meant to convey beauty. Mandell does admit, however, that the film does capture the Nazis’ promotion of nationalism through the games’ intense communal competitiveness.