Perhaps the most stately of Fritz Lang’s two-part epics, the five-hour Die Nibelungen [The Nibelungen] is a courageous and hallucinatory work, a film in which every single shot might alone endure as an exemplar of visual art. Its extraordinary set-pieces, archetypal themes, and unrestrained ambition have proven an inspiration for nearly every fantasy cycle that has emerged on-screen since – from Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings.
In Part One, Siegfried, the film’s eponymous hero acquires the power of invincibility after slaying a dragon and bathing in the creature’s blood. Later, an alliance through marriage between the hero and the royal clan of the Nibelungen turns treacherous, with Siegfried’s sole weakness exploited. In Part Two, Kriemhilds Rache [Kriemhild’s Revenge], Siegfried’s widow travels to the remote land of the Huns to wed the monstrous Attila, and thereby enlist his forces in an act of vengeance that culminates in massacre, conflagration, and, under the auspices of Lang, one of the most exhilarating and terrifying end-sequences in all of cinema.
Adapted from the myth that served as the basis for Wagner’s Ring cycle (though not an adaptation of the operas themselves), Lang’s picture employs its own counterpoint through a systematic, viral series of deranged geometrical patterns and the arresting, kabuki-like quality of the actors’ performances. The result is a film of startling expressionistic power, and a summit of Fritz Lang’s artistry. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the new HD restoration of Die Nibelungen in two-disc Blu-ray and DVD editions.
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