Monday, July 2, 2007

The Nibelungs: Kriemhild's Revenge

Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache; silent adventure film, Germany, 1924; D: Fritz Lang, S: Margarete Schön, Hans Adalbert Schlettow, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Theodor Loos, Rudolf Rittner

After Hagen killed Siegfried, Kriemhild swore revenge. Although she is only faithful to Siegfried, she decides to marry King Etzel, the ruler of the Huns, in order to persuade him to one day kill Hagen. After she gives birth to Etzel's son, Kriemhild invites the Burgundies to the Huns' palace. Once they arive, she promises a reward in gold to whom ever kills Hagen. The situation is tense and a fierce battle escalates. Hagen and his soldiers hide in the palace, while the Huns start a siege. Kriemhild puts the palace on fire and kills everyone in it, including Hagen.

"Kriemhild's Revenge", the second part of Fritz Lang's "Nibelungs" film duology, has a very realistic and down-to-earth story as opposed to the fairy tale original, but also very different in tone and style. In fact, it seems as if Lang reassembled all the characters from the first film and decided to direct them in a completely opposite way: instead of an epic, this one is a intimate drama about Kriemhild's mourning and thirst for revenge. Endlessly uninteresting and overstretched, "Kriemhild" is truly inferior to "Siegfried", relaying too much on forced mythological premise, where the thin plot can't justify the overlong 145 minutes of it's running time. There are some great moments here and there (the glorious scene where Kriemhild walks on a meadow covered by snow, crouching down to take a part of earth in her hands, saying: "Earth, you drank the blood of Siegfried. Prepare to drink Hagen's blood."), but the first half is thematically underdeveloped, only solid in portraying her arranged marriage with Etzel out of interest. The big battle sequence that starts some 90 minutes into the film finally offers some spark, never hesitating to show violence in all of it's gruesome form, obvious in scenes where Hagen kills a child with his sword or where the palace is set on fire. Still, despite the fact that it was directed by Lang, the movie doesn't have much going for it except for the nostalgic memory of the first film, "Siegfried", that holds it together.

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