Rother, Rainer. Leni Riefenstahl: The Seduction of Genius. London: Continuum, 2002.
Rainer Rother’s analysis of Olympia in the chapter “The Political Significance of an ‘Unpolitical’ Film” looks at the ways the film conveys a political message. Rother reasons that the film is unsettling because it was supported by the Nazi party, presumably because of its propaganda value, yet it does not contain explicit pro-Nazi material. He notes the Berlin Olympics themselves were largely ideologically motivated and considers some of the ways the film builds upon that ideology. The beginning of the film is perhaps the most explicitly political in its homage to Nazi Germany and Hitler, especially during the highly nationalistic opening ceremonies. Additionally, the commentary and reaction shots of the patriotic audiences emphasize a battle between races and nations. Still, the fact that Hitler appears in the film even when the Germans don’t win conveys a certain respect for other nations’ achievements.
The chapter is directly relevant to the debate on the question of the propaganda value of the film. The author concludes that the film is largely non-ideological, but notes certain ways in that it communicates political messages. The film’s emphasis on nationalism is the theme most clearly in line with Nazi ideology.