Jun 29, 2021
By Kaveh Jalinous
Visions of Eight is a series of eight vignettes, from eight different directors, covering different aspects of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Right from the start of the film, it is made clear that the film is not meant to serve as a highlight reel or to showcase various gold medalists. Rather, each director was given a simple task: to bring their vision to the games, using whatever tools they needed or could get their hands on to make a product that echoes the true spirit of the Olympics.
The result is a captivating collection of films that both stand out from and complement each other. The opening film, “The Beginning,” aims to capture that moment right before the gun goes off, that initial tension and nervousness that every athlete (Olympian or otherwise) feels. From there, the films highlight a variety of different quirks and qualities of the Olympic Games, including a film about the women of the games, the magic of pole vaulting and even a segment highlighting the expressions and reactions of the losers of the game, among others.
Visions of Eight is a largely dialogue-free film. The only dialogue is a short commentary from each director before their film starts, or sometimes the occasional voices of commentators or athletes at the game. The film’s visuals are also rarely complex. Most directors choose to use slow-motion to capture the movements down to a millisecond, or blur out the action for aesthetic purposes, but rarely anything more. Even without these two essential elements, each film rarely feels uninteresting to watch. It’s not that any of the events are particularly memorable, or that the athletes the film focuses on are famous in any way. It is that these film directors illuminate not only the incredible skill each Olympian brings, but also the communal aspect of the games itself, which is always rewarding.
Moreover, Visions of Eight feels like both a distant time capsule and a reminder that not much has changed. Everything from the director’s styles to the crowd’s and athlete’s apparel seems like a perfect encapsulation of what certain aspects of film and culture were like in 1972. It’s especially fascinating to see how the crowds react to certain events or happenings on-screen or how each athlete, whether champion or not, composes themselves.
Even with these differences created by decades of time, perhaps the most effective part of Visions of Eight is how it shows the unwavering spirit of the Olympics. The film can sometimes feel like an extended advertisement for the games, especially in the beginning segments. But overall, the film is consistently engrossing and inspiring. It’s the perfect showcase of the amazing things humans are able to achieve, as well as the celebration of talent that the Olympics highlights. At a time when the Olympics continue to be uncertain, Visions of Eight is a worthy fix for sports fans, Olympic fans, and cinephiles alike.
The Criterion Collection’s restoration of the film is unbelievably crisp and clear, highlighting all of the film’s vivid colors and hues in striking elegance. While the film’s physical release doesn’t have many special features, the ones included definitely justify a purchase. The best featurettes are a new documentary about the film with some of the filmmaking crew and a commentary track with The Big Picture podcast hosts Sean Fennessey and Amanda Dobbins as well as special guest Chris Ryan.