- "Oh sister, what you have wrought!" 5/18/2009 12:00:00 AM by Steffi_P
Please see also my comment on Die Nibelungen part 1: Siegfried.
The second part of UFA studio's gargantuan production of the Nibelungen saga continues in the stylised, symphonic and emotionally detached manner of its predecessor. However, whereas part one was a passionless portrayal of individual acts of heroism, part two is a chaotic depiction of bloodletting on a grand scale.
As in part one, director Fritz Lang maintains a continuous dynamic rhythm, with the pace of the action and the complexity of the shot composition rising and falling smoothly as the tone of each scene demands. These pictures should only be watched with the note-perfect Gottfried Huppertz score, which fortunately is on the Kino DVD. Now, with this focus on mass action, Lang is presented with greater challenges in staging. The action sequences in his earliest features were often badly constructed, but now he simply makes them part of that rhythmic flow, with the level of activity on the screen swelling up like an orchestra.
But just as part one made us witness Siegfried's adventures matter-of-factly and without excitement, part two presents warfare as devastating tragedy. In both pictures, there is a deliberate lack of emotional connection with the characters. That's why Lang mostly keeps the camera outside of the action, never allowing us to feel as if we are there (and this is significant because involving the audience is normally a distinction of Lang's work). That's also why the performances are unnaturally theatrical, with the actors lurching around like constipated sleepwalkers.
Nevertheless, Kriemhild's revenge does constantly deal with emotions, and is in fact profoundly humanist. The one moment of naturalism is when Atilla holds his baby son for the first time, and Lang actually emphasises the tenderness of this scene by building up to it with the wild, frantic ride of the huns. The point is that Lang never manipulates us into taking sides, and in that respect this version has more in common with the original saga than the Wagner opera. The climactic slaughter is the very antithesis of a rousing battle scene. Why then did Hitler and co. get so teary-eyed over it, a fact which has unfairly tarnished the reputation of these films? Because the unwavering racial ideology of the Nazis made them automatically view the Nibelungs as the good guys, even if they do kill babies and betray their own kin. For Hitler, their downfall would always be a nationalist tragedy, not a human one.
But for us non-nazi viewers, what makes this picture enjoyable is its beautiful sense of pageantry and musical rhythm. When you see these fully-developed silent pictures of Lang's, it makes you realise how much he was wasted in Hollywood. Rather than saddling him with low-budget potboilers, they should have put him to work on a few of those sword-and-sandal epics, pictures that do not have to be believable and do not have to move us emotionally, where it's the poetic, operatic tonality that sweeps us along.
- Revenge on an operatic scale 4/4/2010 12:00:00 AM by manuelu
This film portrays revenge on an operatic scale. But do not confuse with Wagner's opera Das Ring des Nibelungen. Although both the film and Wagner's opera are based on related Norse and Icelandic sagas, Wagner devotes attention to Brünnhilde's reaction to the death of Siegfried rather than on Siegfried's widow Gutrune's (i.e. Kriemhilde's) reaction to the murder of the hero. Both the film and the opera are romantic in style. But unlike the 19th century opera, the film has elements of early 20th-century German expressionism. Everything about this film is perfect. The acting is over the top, as it needs to be. The sets are sublime. The crowd scenes are powerful. Imagine a film where the heroine makes Attlla the Hun (Etzel) seem like a reasonable, sympathetic host.
- a breathtaking silent film 3/1/2002 12:00:00 AM by frojavigdis
I saw this film last night at a special movie theater showing in Nürnberg, and it was superb. I do have to admit that the original music composition of the cello player and percussion/xylophone player influenced the mood of the film, but the film itself also had force in its portrayal of the tragic Nibelungen saga.
If you are interested in silent films or in the Nibelungenlied, I highly recommend this film. The costumes were fantastic and creative, the sets were opulent and exotic, and the acting was dramatic and breathtaking (as is typical of silent film "tragedies") Unfortunately, I have not seen the first part of this film duo that concerns Siegfried. The story of this second film begins after Siegfried's death, when Kremhild (Gudrun in the Norse versions of the story) begins to plan her revenge against her brothers.
Also, I watched this film in German; I am a native English speaker and have a basic German knowledge. It was difficult to read the ?subtitles (what do you call that in silent films?) at first because of the old style German script, so I advise that if you watch it in German that you make sure you can differentiate your "k's", "f's", and "s's" in the old script. :)
- All-Encompassing 3/19/2013 12:00:00 AM by kurosawakira
"Die Nibelungen" (1924), Lang's five-hour, two-part epic is quickly becoming my quintessential experience with Lang. The two films are all-encompassing: the first plays more like a fairytale (that translates well to filmic special effects), the latter more like "Hamlet" and its ilk. Siegfried is necessarily blank as a character, in fact he seems more like a characterization of virtue than flesh and bone; Kriemhild, too, is like white space in the first film, but is transformed by revengeful hate to a driven character of great psychological power. The second film is thus far more internal in its drama.
Not to say it wouldn't have some of the most amazing action sequences ever put to film. In fact, the riding of Etzel (Attila) and his men across the valley, the siege, the ensuing battle and climax are so well-done and full of so much real danger that the effect is dumbfounding. Where in modern cinema can we find risk in this manner? Herzog's "Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes" (1972) or "Fitzcarraldo" (1982) don't really fit the classification.
Indeed, the climatic fire is so visually violent that not even Kurosawa topped it in "Ran" (1985). I was breathless in awe and wonder and fear by witnessing it, sure that a huge rafter would crush the actors.
It's a beauty to behold on Blu-ray. We're lucky to have the restoration on both Region A (Kino) and B (Masters of Cinema series).
- a perfect follow-up 5/21/2005 12:00:00 AM by lee_eisenberg
In "Die Nibelungen: Siegfried", Siegfried was betrayed. Now, Kriemhild seeks revenge. She marries Hagen, and through a series of events, finally engages in a very drastic (but fitting) action at the end.
One of the things about watching this movie nowadays is that we can look at certain portrayals. Attila the Hun (called Etzel in the movie) is shown as the strange person from the east, possibly an allusion to the Soviet Union. Obviously, it was not Fritz Lang's fault that Hitler used "The Nibelungenlied" for German national pride in the Third Reich, but one can see what the Fuhrer liked about the story. Nonetheless, this is an absolutely formidable movie.