SIEGFRIED(Nibelungen: Siegfried, Die) (director/writer: Fritz Lang; screenwriter: Thea von Harbou; cinematographers: Karl Hoffmann/Günther Rittau/Walter Ruttmann; music: Richard Wagner/Gottfried Huppertz; cast: Paul Richter (Siegfried), Margarete Schön (Kriemhild), Bernhard Goetzke (Volker von Alzey), Gertrud Arnold (Koenigin Ute), Hanna Ralph (Brunhild), Theodor Loos (Koenig Gunther), Hans Adalbert Schlettow (Hagen Tronje), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Koenig Etzel) Hans Carl Mueller (Gernot), George John (Mime); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Erich Pommer; Timeless Video; 1924-silent-German-in German with English subtitles)
“It’s awesome as spectacle, but the story takes a long time to develop.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Fritz Lang (“Metropolis”/”Liliom”/”Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”) magnificently brings to the screen this Teutonic saga, the Nibelungenlied, the same myth that Richard Wagner used for his Der Ring Des Nibelungen. It’s a studio-bound film, with interior sets of forests, fiery landscapes and castles modeled on 19th century Romantic paintings. Otto Hunte designed the brilliant sets and the photography by Karl Hoffmann gave it a luminous black and white look. It’s awesome as spectacle, but the story takes a long time to develop. There’s also a second part called Kriemhild’s Revenge.
Siegfried (Paul Richter), the brave son of King Sigmund, of the Netherlands (Nibelungen), departs his forest homeland with a magic sword to the court of King Gunther, of Burgundy (located in the city of Worms), to seek the hand of the most noble and beautiful princess Kriemhild (Margarete Schön). Siegfried forged the magical sword at the shop of black arts master Mime (George John). When faced on his Northern trek with the dragon Fafnir, he slays it and bathes himself in the creature’s blood to ensure that his body is invulnerable. However, a linden leaf falls on his back, preventing the blood from covering that spot and it becomes a vulnerable spot just like the heel of Achilles. Next, Siegfried secures a magic cloak, by not taking the life of a stranger on the path, that makes him invisible and superstrong.
When he reaches Worms, King Gunther declares that Siegfried must complete a quest before he can marry Kriemhild. The quest is to help Gunther claim Brunhild, Queen of Iceland (Hanna Ralph), for marriage, by besting the evil queen in a series of three sporting contests. Using his invisibility and magic, Siegfried subs for Gunther and is successful. But he gets Hagan (Hans Adalbert Schlettow), half-brother to Gunther, jealous and bitter with envy. Eventually Brunhild learns she’s been tricked when Kriemhild can’t keep the secret and in a momentary indiscretion blurts out the secret as Brunhild insults her Siegfried as a mere vassal. When the secret of Siegfried’s weak spot is revealed, he is slain when Hagen chucks a spear on that spot when he’s drinking water at a pond. After confessing that she lied about Siegfried, Brunhilde kills herself.
Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels both said this film as one of their favorites.
REVIEWED ON 3/6/2007 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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