Melbourne/Stockholm 1956

A collection of films, from different sources, and with different agendas. I have a fairly comprehensive feel for these games, and I enjoyed getting it.

For this edition of the games, we’re lucky enough to get four very different films. None are bad, two are great, and all have a specific style or focus that’s interesting to contemplate. The huge variety in quality, style, length, tone, and direction of these films continues to make this set one of the single most interesting I’ve had the pleasure to explore.

The first film is a breezy sixty minute look at the games. It was made by an Australian film company and it’s essentially an extended newsreel. We’ve officially reached the color era of the films, and it’s so cool to see what everything looked like in 1956. I don’t have much to say about this film, as it’s really just a quick overview of what happened. They move extremely briskly, to make the most of the limited runtime, and it was sometimes hard to follow what was going on.

The second film is a lot longer, and a lot better. It was made by a French production company, and it’s the first film in this set to nail the way we currently present the Olympic games. That is to say, it’s the first film to focus on the people, rather than the sport. Of course we see what played out, but the film does a great job of introducing us to various athletes, and starting to tell their stories. Not just athletes that won something either, but just the most interesting details the filmmakers could find.

The film combines the understanding that the human element is the most interesting, with a great understanding of the purpose of the games. The idea that it’s not about winning is one I keep hammering on, and this film absolutely gets it. Records, victories, and achievement should be celebrated, but not at the expense of the huge advances in cultural cross-pollination that make the games so special.

The third film takes this idea and explores it even more fully. It’s a short film about one athlete in particular, French marathon winner Alain Mimoun. It my favorite of the set, and it does a remarkable job of intercutting the race itself, with re-created vignettes of how the athlete got to that moment. This film goes even deeper into the life of a person, rather than just a name briefly mentioned in a retrospective. It helps that Mimoun lived a fascinating life.

The final film was the weakest, at least for me. The horse events for the Olympic games were mostly not held in Melbourne, as Australian law prevented the competitors from bringing their own steeds. Instead the events were held in Stockholm, and this film captures that part of the games. It would probably be fascinating to someone, but I’m not particularly interested in the sport being presented. I like the jumping alright, but the dressage and other things are probably my least favorite part of the games.