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Saturday, September 6, 2008

DIE NIBELUNGEN: SIEGRIED / KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE (1924)

The Fritz Lang version of this indigestible, logic-starved national German epic takes 5 hours (in two parts) and weighs a ton. Compared to the undiluted pleasures of MABUSE/'22 or SPIONE/'28, it's a long pull. The script, by his then wife Thea Von Harbou, is her usual mix of proto-fascism and misogyny, with enough pageantry, violence & nihilism to last a Reich. And yet . . . amid the insanity and over-encrusted designs (Klimt for Part One: SIEGFRIED; and Ali Baba for Part Two: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE), there’s a jaw-dropping mix of intensity & rigorous artistic conception that’s been nearly as influential to the epic film (from Sergei Eisenstein to Peter Jackson) as Lang’s METROPOLIS/'27 has been to futuristic sci-fi. Just keep in mind that many of the old critical raptures over this very unmatched pair of films are based largely on heavily cut 3-hour versions that move far more quickly than this restored edition. That means you now get two extra hours of Expressionistic eye-ball rolling, though it does give you a shot at catching Kriemhild blink once or twice. Lang must have hypnotized her.

NOTE: As is often the case with DVD transfers of silent films, you can significantly improve/boost the grey scale by tamping down a bit on your brightness levels and more than a bit on your contrast level. The improvement is particularly noticeable in reducing 'blasting' on the actors faces so that you can better 'read' their expressions. No complaints on the superb reconstruction or performance of the original 1924 Gottfried Huppertz symphonic score. Turn up the volume and enjoy. (NOTE: A newer restoration using better elements came out on a KINO DVD on 2012.)

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