I knew going into this next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my viewing of Intolerance that I would love it. Fritz Lang directed it, and helped adapt it to the screen, basing it on the epic German poem of the same name; and I loved his Metropolis, so knowing this was going to be a bit of an epic fantasy film, I dove in.
A silent film, it’s actually two movies, logging in at almost 5 hours long. The first is called Siegfried, the second is Kriemhild’s Revenge.
The first film follows the tale of Siegfried (Paul Richter), the son of a King, he apprenticed with a blacksmith, but upon hearing the tale of the lovely Kriemhild (Margarete Schon), he decides to go to her, and hopefully woo her.
Along the way, he wanders through a forest, and comes across a dragon (a wonderful practical effect creation, which of course looks fake, but looks great considering when it was done), slaying it and bathing in its blood makes him invincible, except for one spot that is missed on his back.
He stumbles across a dwarf treasure, finds an invisible cloak-thing, and arrives at the castle of King Gunther (Theodor Loos), and its agreed that Siegfried has his blessing to marry his sister, Kriemhild, if he helps him win the heart of the warrior princess Brunhild (Hanna Ralph).
Using his invisibility and strength, Siegrfried helps Gunther, and Brunhild is his. She, however, is less than delighted by this and begins to create trouble, turning Gunther against his friend, and now brother-in-law, tearing the kingdom apart, until Gunther arranges for his man, Hagen (Hans Adalbert Schlettow) to kill him.
The first part ends with Siegrfried’s death, and Kriemhild swearing her revenge.
The second sees her mourning her loss, but letting the King of the Huns, Etzel (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) marry her, and through manipulation, and invitations, she begins to work her vengeance, tearing her family and kingdom apart as she wreaks her revenge on those who killed the man she loved.
Epic is the only word that actually applies to this film. It’s an incredible watch, and engaging, and oft-times, much like when I watched Metropolis, you forget that it’s a silent film, and just become transported in the story.
Lang was an incredible director, the sets, the designs, yes, some of the acting is a little melodramatic, but that was the style of the time. I was completely taken in by this production, and highly enjoyed it. Sure, clocking in at five hours isn’t the easiest thing to sit through, but since they are broken into two films, one can space it out.
Movies like this are the reason I love working my way through these lists and books, you come across films you may have never heard of, and discover long forgotten gems, and perhaps find new things you may have missed otherwise.
This one is definitely up there.
Have you seen it?