Running Time:288 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
Die Nibelungen is a series of two silent fantasy films (Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge) directed by the ground-breaking director Fritz Lang. Running at around the five hour mark, the feature certainly falls into the epic category with a story following a similar path to the King Arthur legend. The films were co-written by Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbour who also helped with writing duties on the likes of Metropolis (1927) and the Dr Mabuse series. It is argued that Fritz Lang’s epic paved the way for future fantasy series such as the Star Wars saga and The Lord of the Rings. After viewing this magnificent and ambitious piece of cinema art it is hard to disagree with them.
After perfecting the art of forging swords, Siegfried (Paul Richter), son of King Sigmund, is told about the beautiful sister of Gunter, King of Worms. On his trip to Worms to win the hand of Kriemhield (Margarete Schon), he encounters a dragon. Siegfried defeats the fierce beast and bathes in its blood resulting in the gift of invincibility. The only part of his body that remains vulnerable is between his shoulder blades due to the young man failing to remove a leaf that had stuck to his body.
Having gained notoriety for his bravery, Siegfried approaches the king for approval to court his sister. He accepts with one condition, that the dragon slayer helps him deceive his love interest; the strong willed Valkyrie Brunhield (Hannah Ralph). Having been informed of Siegfried’s actions, Brunhield undertakes a wave of retribution on her wrongdoers. This only leads to an escalation of violence, destruction and misery for all concerned.
The depth and scale of Die Nibelungen is quite breath taking. For a film that peaks the five-hour mark it is remarkable the amount of detail that is crammed into each scene. Lang proves just as successful with his take in the sword and sorcery genre as he was with science fiction (Metropolis) and crime thriller (Dr Mabuse series).
Lang’ has a talent for incredible visuals and this film is no exception. From the opening dragon battle to the full-scale wars in Kriemhild’s Revenge, I wish I had experienced these movies when I was a lot younger than I am now. There is more talent and imagination in five minutes of Die Nibelungen than there is in the entire Twilight series.
Die Nibelungen has been released at the perfect time too. With growing anticipation over the imminent release of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit to the big screen, Fritz Lang’s forgotten classic deserves to be rediscovered in this restored format. This is a very special movie.
- Long-awaited expert HD restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Germany
- Immaculately presented in the film’s original frame rates and aspect ratio, in 1080p on the Blu-ray
- Newly translated optional English subtitles for the original German intertitles
- An hour-long documentary: The Heritage of Die Nibelungen
- Illustrated booklet featuring the words of Lang, rare archival imagery, and more
- Further details to be announced nearer the release date!