I loved this film so, so much. The entire thing came together as an expression of joy and good things in the world.
I’ve been looking forward to this since this set was initially announced and it didn’t disappoint at all. In fact, it greatly surpassed even the high hopes I had for it.
I knew some things about the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. I knew about Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising black gloved fists in solidarity with human rights. I knew about Bob Beamon breaking the world record in the long jump by such a distance he fell to his knees, unable to comprehend what he had done.
What I didn’t know, was how many other records were broken, and what a spectacle of joy the Olympics were that year. Especially coming on the heels of the horrific Tlatelolco massacre, where the military and police killed civilians ten days before the opening ceremony.
This film doesn’t directly touch on those events, I can’t imagine it would have been allowed if it had. Still, a basic knowledge of the content provides the backdrop to this magnificent film.
This film mostly takes a straight documentarian approach to capturing the events of the games. Most of the disciplines are shown, and we mostly find out about winners and record breakers.
What the film is about is heroism. In that vein, we do see some people who didn’t win their events, if their actions could be perceived as heroic in defeat. What makes it work is the almost total lack of interest in nationalism. Very few national anthems are heard, and while the Mexican athletes are slightly more focused on, it’s far, far less present than in most of the other films so far.
This is a film about human heroics, not nations. Because of that it feels so much more positive and worthwhile.
The other thing that really worked for me was the choice to use almost no direct sound. They didn’t use none, which might have suggested they didn’t have the technical capability of recording it. They used some, just not that much. Instead we get almost a throwback to the early sound films in the series, where we have music paired with narration.
Here the narration is even kept to a minimum, so mostly what we have is the music. Luckily, the music is absolutely perfect. It presents the drama and feeling of what’s going on, without ever being overwhelming or a burden. The whole thing has gravitas, but is also kept light and fun. It worked shockingly well.
This film reminded me that the Olympics are, at their best, a moment for the world to come together and celebrate ourselves. It’s a nice feeling.