KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE, the sequel to SIEGFRIED, part one of Fritz Lang's massive epic DIE NIBULENGUN, picks up where the first half ended, with the wife of the slain hero Siegfried swearing revenge against her husband's murderer.
The end of SIEGFRIED is recapped via flashbacks: The heroic warrior Siegfried (Paul Richter) husband of Lady Kriemhild (Margarete Schon) is murdered by Hagen Tronje (Hans Adalbert von Schlettow), the treacherous court advisor and uncle to King Gunther (Theodor Loos) of Burgundy. As part two
begins, Kriemhild accuses Hagen of murdering Siegfried and swears to avenge his death. Hagen steals Siegfried's treasure and throws it into the sea so that Kriemhild cannot use it to amass an army to fight him. Months pass, but Kriemhild's anger remains and she agrees to a marriage proposal from
Attila the Hun (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) as part of her plan for revenge.
She gives birth to Attila's son and convinces him to invite her brother and Hagen to their court for a celebration, but Attila refuses her request that he slay Hagen, so long as he is a guest at the court. Kriemhild gives gold to the Hun warriors and plots with them to kill the Burgundians when
they arrive. During the banquet, the Hun warriors attack the Burgundians and Hagen retaliates by killing Kriemhild's baby. The enraged Attila orders his men to kill Hagen and Gunther, who barricade themselves inside a palace hall. Attila sets fire to the hall and Hagan is captured. Kriemhild kills
Hagan with Siegfried's sword, then collapses and dies, and Attila orders that she be buried next to her beloved Siegfried.
Less stylized than its predecessor, but more emotionally involving, KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE is another incredible pictorial achievement by Lang, synthesizing lavish studio artifice with mystical and mythical themes. Though it has its share of visual delights--Siegfried's treasure buried at the bottom
of the ocean as fish swim by, Kriemhild's ride through the snow-covered woods, flaming arrows shooting through the night sky and setting Attila's castle on fire--its compositions are much less formal and rigorous than in SIEGFRIED, as it concentrates more on straight action and plot. More time is
also spent on the characters, with particular attention paid to the vengeance-consumed Kriemhild, whose bitterness turns her beauty cold and hard, and the odious Hagen, with his fearsomely craggy face and long hair growing out from his missing eye. Margarete Schon, who played Kriemhild, is so
effective in her transformation that the original Variety reviewer complained about the actress's "masculinity" and erroneously stated that the character was portrayed by a different actress than in SIEGFREID. Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who had starred in Lang's DR. MABUSE films, is also marvelous as
Attila the Hun, outfitted with a bald pate from which a long pony-tail protrudes.
The final Hun attack sequence involved hundreds of extras and was directed by Lang via a field telephone from atop a mountain, like a military operation. The scene is stunning for the ferocity of the battle as well as its imagery, with the massacre taking place while flames consume the palace,
though the ending, where Kriemhild inexplicably dies after slaying Hagen, is anti-climactic. DIE NIBELUNGEN was said to be a favorite of Hitler's and even Lang himself confessed that the films may have celebrated German nationalism too much and that he had been too obsessed with gigantism, but
taken as a whole, the films are as close as the cinema has ever come to capturing the look and spirit of a fairy-tale book and bringing it vividly to life. (Violence.)
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- Review: KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE, the sequel to SIEGFRIED, part one of Fritz Lang's massive epic DIE NIBULENGUN, picks up where the first half ended, with the wife of the slain hero Siegfried swearing revenge against her husband's murderer. The end of SIEGFRIED is rec… (more)