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AN EPIC WORTHY OF THE TERM,
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This review is from: Die Nibelungen (Special Kino Classics Edition) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Intricate, intelligent, and charged with emotional intensity, Fritz Lang's cinematic telling of the great German legend is truly magnificent to behold. Made when silent films were at their height of artistic and dramatic expression, DIE NIBELUNGEN (1924) puts the CGI blockbusters of today to shame.
The film perfectly captures a medieval atmosphere with an authentic feel to the sets and costumes. The performers especially are in total sync with the grandeur this subject matter demands. Everything is in keeping with how epics should be made, and Kino did a splendid job of presenting the film in a fully restored Blu-ray edition that looks glorious. Transferred from 35mm sources and dyed orange via a photochemical process (as per the original release prints), this is the closest we have to Lang's original vision. And there's a lot to see - just knowing that the grand sets were actually constructed for the film instead of having the actors popped into flat, digitally enhanced backgrounds adds a dimension of reality lacking in most contemporary films of this type.
For years historians focused attention on the first part, SIEGFRIED, whereas the second part, KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE, had a somewhat underrated reputation. While the entire film presents a profusion of imagery worthy of classical painting, it's the second part, for me anyway, wherein the heart of DIE NIBELUNGEN lies. One of the most moving scenes in any film ever made is in KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE where Siegfried's (Paul Richter) grieving widow (Margerete Schon) leaves home and stops enroute at the stream where her husband was murdered. She dismounts her horse and tells her escort to remain back as she, alone, walks over to the water's edge. She kneels down and with her bare hands digs through the snow and earth bringing up a handful of dirt upon which her husband's blood was spilled, and she swears an oath that his murderer's blood will drench the same soil. The poignant beauty of this scene, surrounded in snow and birch trees, combined with the intensity in Kriemhild's face as she makes her vow, creates a poetic moment upon which rests all that follows. Indeed, this scene is recalled to our mind twice: first, when Kriemhild bears a son to Attila the Hun (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) and she takes the cloth containing the holy soil to her bosom; then at the end when she unfurls the cloth, spilling its contents upon the slain Hagen (Hans Adalbert Schlettow), her huband's murderer, thus fulfilling her oath. It's the cornerstone upon which the entire story is built.
Maturely told, DIE NIBELUNGEN proves that a film doesn't need spoken dialogue to be great. The musical score on this edition is the original 1924 composition by Gottfried Huppertz, and it amply provides the appropriate degree of power and passion. Very much in the spirit of a grand opera, DIE NIBELUNGEN belongs in the collection of every serious classic film lover.
Extras include a feature length documentary on the making and restoration of the film, as well as newsreel footage of Fritz Lang directing on the set.
My highest recommendation - but not for those challenged by a short attention span.
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Initial post: Nov 4, 2013 2:11:30 AM PST
W. T. Hoffman says:
Wow, i'm a fan too. I don't see why Kriemhilds rache is not as well liked, cos I cant watch one film without the other. My favorite Lang used to be Metropolis, but I think this is his BEST work, just for its monumental achievement. Maybe if we had a complete copy of Metropolis, I'd prefer that film. I love the transformation of Kriemhild from white spiritual loving princess, into that black clothed, hatred obsessed queen. The same transformation (same actress too I think) happened in METROPOLIS, with the Maria (?) woman who helped the workers, and the robot evil clone of her. The films are very similar in ways (far future, far past, both epic, both have very geometrically composed sets, and cast staging.) On Youtube there's a german remake of this film from the 1960s in color. I got into the epic this summer, and read parts of the Nibelungenlied, watched the RING cycle, etc. Sigfried is like Faust--central characters in German literature, as well as European operas, films, etc. (Yet both themes pretty much ignored by Hollywood.)
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