Olympia, Leni Reifenstahl

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The aim of this essay is to present an artwork, in the field of visual and performing arts, and to analyse it using Thompson’s aspects and their characteristics. The formal elements of the artwork will be discussed and identified. I will examine how they are organised and structured and I will include the relationship between them, but first I will begin with a historical background of the artist as well as the context of the artwork. The intentional aspect shall be the last thing to be discussed then the conclusion of the essay. I have decided to analyse Riefenstahl’s documentary Olympia for this essay, but the opening sequence is what shall be focused on. My analysis is going to be based on my own opinion but will be encouraged by Thompson. Leni Riefenstahl, born 1902, was a German film director. She was widely recognised for her innovation and her aesthetics as a filmmaker. Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens, translated as, Triumph of Will. [5] It was characterized as a propaganda film. This film, along with her personal relationship with Hitler got Riefenstahl into a bit of a predicament after Germany’s loss in World War 2. It been prohibited as a National Socialist propaganda film and she was arrested, but then released with no charges against her. Triumph of Will gave Riefenstahl immediate international fame or rather infamy that lasted throughout her life. The propaganda ‘quality’ of her films that had been created caused the majority of critics to revolt, but many film histories mention that the aesthetics of the films are exceptional. [1] [2] After Triumph of Will, in 1938 Riefenstahl had created another film that had become world famous was Olympia, a film based on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. It was a highly lucrative film. She was commissioned by the International Olympic Committee to make this film. [4] [6] She went to Greece to film at the original site of Olympia where she acquired footage of the games and events that took place. The pieces of information that she had collected and documented became recognised for its artistic appeal and technical success. Riefenstahl was acknowledged for her use of different camera systems that she employed to gain her footage. Her work became a major influence in the way sports films are created today. [2] In 1936, the Olympic Games were bestowed to Berlin before the Nazi’s came into power giving Hitler the perfect opportunity to show the world how organised the Nazi regime was. The film was the first documentary ever made that was based on the Olympic Games. It documented the controversial Games that took place that year, the same Olympics that many countries all over the world boycotted. The boycott was due to the political context of increasing nationalism, military mobilization and ‘expansionist’ notions. The boycott was organised because many countries felt that the Olympic Games should not be centred on politics but rather it should showcase the world’s greatest athletes. Countries got involved in the sanctions because they thought if they had been a part of the Games, they would contribute to Hitler’s Nazi regime and the anti-Semitic plans that followed. The political events were a continuous factor for Germany who was trying to build their nation up and to strengthen their identity. [1] [4] Thompson defines structure as a type of formalism. It is based on how things are put together or constructed. What elements it consists of and how the elements are related to one another is by a means of relationships. These elements lead toward formalism and the formal analysis of the components as they work together as a whole. It is a configuration of items. These formal features can either be analysed in a figurative or literal way. In the case of Olympia, it is to be perceived in a literal way. Structure can also be defined as ‘a fundamental and sometimes intangible notion of covering the recognition, observation, nature and stability of patterns and...
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