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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 2. March 20, 1946

Berlin Olympic Games Film Released after 6 years

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Berlin Olympic Games Film Released after 6 years

The last Olympic Games were held ten years ago and the film on the subject has been in the country for six years without being made available to the general public. The reason is that it contains a small amount of Nazi propaganda and it is possible that a screening during the war would not have been desirable. However, it is now being made available to sports bodies and other interested organisations.

At the screening I attended a message from Mr. Fraser was delivered beforehand advising the audience to ignore the propaganda aspect but Mr. Fraser need not have worried. Hitler's appearances were greeted with laughter, and the emphasis that was placed on the exploits of the German, Italian and Japanese athletes cut no ice whatever. There was a tendency to under-emphasize the achievement of the Negroes but their obviously outstanding performances defied the attempts of the producers to discriminate between the "White Race" and the "dangerous black boys." In any case, most of the English commentary was supplied by announcers from the British and American broadcasting services.

The producer of the film was Leni Reifenstahl, a prominent Nazi, but an accomplished artist. She was reported to have been Hitler's mistress at the time and a popular joke among the anti-Nazis concerned the story that Hitler slept on spring steel, not on a mattress. For translation of the lady's name see any German dictionary.

The film begins with a half hour of impressionistic shots, carrying one back to the Greek Olympic Games and leading up to the carrying of the Olympic torch from Athens to Berlin. For anyone interested in film technique I can recommend this sequence without reservation. However the inclusion of a similar long sequence at the beginning of the second part and again at the end, seems rather unnecessary.

The screening takes nearly four hours. My only comment on this is that I am not normally interested in most of the sports included in the Olympic Games, but I did not lose interest in the film for half a moment. Most of the events are shown in full, even the heats being included in some cases. It soon became obvious that one sees far more in a film than one does in seeing the actual event; the camera is able to follow the sprinter right round the track, to climb to the height of the pole vaulters' cross-bar, and to go underwater to examine the swimmers' style. It would take a whole book to give details of all the events shown, but a few are worth special comment.

Lovelock's amazing burst of speed in the late stages of the 1500 metres brought a burst of applause in the theatre. The organisers of the games were quite unprepared for a New Zealander taking a record—the Union Jack was run up on the winners' flagpole, and the band played "God Save The King"—perhaps a reflection on N.Z.'s overseas publicity.

The most spectacular event from the photographic viewpoint is the pole-vaulting. The Olympic record in this event is about three feet higher than the New Zealand record, and the grace and precision of the performers astounded the audience.

In the swimming events, the film is not so valuable as a demonstration of technique; one is left to assume that the speed is faithfully represented. However, a number of underwater shots should provide considerable interest to swimmers. The diving was a special thrill, although cutting the shots before the diver hit the water tended to leave the audience hanging in mid-air also.

The film is of unquestionable value to all sportsmen and physical education specialists, but the purpose of this article has been to persuade that it is also worth the attention of all who are interested in film as an art.