The Nibelungen, Part I: Siegfried's Death

Fritz Lang's two-part superproduction of the thirteenth-century Nordic saga that also inspired Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung is a triumph of studio-created artifice in the silent era. Sets, lighting, costumes, camerawork, and special effects all contribute to the monumental re-creation of a world at the dawn of time, when fire-breathing dragons roam the earth and the Nibelungen, a race of dwarfs, bestow magical powers on the warrior Siegfried (Paul Richter). Part I takes the story through Siegfried's marriage to the beautiful Kriemhild (Margarethe Schön) and his death at the hands of Hagen. In Part II, the despondent Kriemhild forms an alliance with Attila the Hun and massacres Hagen's forces in a violent siege. Against the backdrop of the rainbow mountain, colossal rock formations in the forest glades, the vast architectural structures, and the shimmering pool where Siegfried drinks, the characters themselves are almost decorative motifs. In Kriemhild's Revenge, however, the style modulates to a kaleidoscope of movement and the film becomes a terrifying study of barbarism.

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