Of course it's easy to compare this movie to Leni Riefenstahl's Olympiad movies, about the Olympic summer games in Berlin, of 1936 but there is also a very good reason to compare both ambitious projects, besides the fact that they share the same subject. Both are also being shot and told in a very similar way, with as of course big difference that this documentary is in color and filmed with more modern technologies.

The documentary shows everything involving the Olympic games. From athletes preparing, to the crowds cheering for their favorites. Winners and losers, the ignition of the Olympic flame and the closing ceremony. But foremost it still focuses on the sports, for obvious reasons. It shows beautifully how it's being experienced and executed by the athletes. This is more than just a camera registration of the Olympics. It takes us to places no other camera's are ever allowed and shows us shots from multiple different angles and of things that are never shown on TV.

It extensively shows a lot of the sports, some featured still more prominently than others. It's of course impossible to give all 163 events and 5,151 athletes from 93 different countries an equal amount of attention. But the movie manages to find a nice balance between the most important and popular sports and the more surprising and shocking moments of the 1964 Olympics. Basically each sport gets filmed and edited in a different stylish way but at all times the movie feels like one whole, that just flies by, even though it's quite a long one.

And stylish is certainly a good word to describe this documentary as. Some of the sports are filmed simply beautifully and are absolutely captivating to watch. They even manage to at times build up a good tension, even though the outcomes of it are already known for almost 50 years by now. There are too many moments that stand out to name but I would nevertheless still like to mention the registration of the marathon, which got featured at the end of the documentary. It's also the sport that gets featured the longest and it's absolutely beautiful and special to watch. It also really makes you respect the athletes all the more.

Like basically every Olympics some memorable and legendary events occurred during the games. Don Schollander winning 4 golden medals, Joe Frazier becoming the heavyweight boxing winner, Abebe Bikila winning the Olympic marathon for the second time, Anton Geesink become the very first Olympic open category judo champion, which was entire an Asian dominated sport at the time and many more memorable moments, which are all shown in an unique and beautiful way within this documentary.

It's also fun to see how non of the sports have really changed over the years and how all of the athletes in this documentary show all of the same emotions and passion for their sport. Thing that changed the most are some of the country's flags, it seems.

The entire documentary still feels pretty dark but as it turns out, the 1964 were also considered to be dark and cold at the time. In other words, the documentary simply does a great job at capturing the mood and atmosphere of its time and place.

If I have to say still one real negative thing about this documentary it would be the fact that basically all of the sounds were obviously later added to the documentary. Athletes breathing, athletes running, athletes hitting a ball. All of the sounds come straight out of a studio, which just doesn't always sound natural enough. It's even somewhat comical and annoying at times, especially when the images and sounds don't really go together. It's weird hearing a crowed go ballistic while in the background the mostly Japanese spectators are all calmly sitting and watching.

A real more than great and uniquely beautiful registration of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic summer games. A must-see for the lovers of sport and documentary film-making.


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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