Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge (1924)
Directed by Fritz Lang

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * * ½

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Kriemhild's Revenge, the second part of Fritz Lang's film version of the epic of the Nibelungs, while marginally less interesting than the first half, Siegfried, is still a wonderfully inventive and evocative movie.

After Hagen's murder of her husband Siegfried, Kriemhild is given in marriage by her brother to Etzel, the King of the Huns. Several years later, she convinces her new husband to invite her brother, Hagen, and the other Burgundians to his court so that she will be able to avenge Siegfried's death.

Like Siegfried, Kriemhild's Revenge is a visually stunning film. The Hunnish court, in particular, is remarkably impressive. It is a strange, savage place, and its wildness contrasts with the austere, symmetrical, and formalized Burgundian court with its dour, stern heroes. In fact, the set and costume designs used by Lang for both these lands, and the nations inhabiting them, are genuinely memorable and consistently inventive.


What is more, by opposing these two groups, without idealizing either by contrasting it with the other, by distinguishing two radically different peoples, each of whom is worthy of sympathy, Lang is able to increase considerably his film's emotive impact. The viewer's compassion is, as a result of this approach, related to the sorrows of the members of either society and is more readily universalized than it would have been had it been directed only towards the members of one of the two.


Lang would not, however, have been able to achieve such an effect had he not evoked as skillfully as he does Kriemhild's anger at Hagen for his murder of Siegfried and the tragic consequences that her efforts to avenge her husband's death have on all those around her. Throughout the movie, the director brings out Kriemhild's terrible, burning wrath, her consuming indignation, and her willingness to sacrifice everything in her quest to destroy Siegfried's killers.


Moreover, Lang does not dwell on her emotions alone, but makes manifest those of the various persons her actions affect. The Burgundians are shown as being guilty of the murder, but their honor, bravery, and loyalty to one another allow the viewer to feel sadness for them when they meet their doom. Having so aroused feelings of compassion for them from the moviegoer by evoking their heroism as they fight for their lives and for the sake of their honor and then transforming that experience of their bravery into sorrow, Lang gives these dolorous emotions a real poignancy.


The Huns too are nicely realized and their sufferings are effectively brought out as well. Although they are depicted as savage and wild, they are never made into stupid animals. Etzel's love for his wife and child are strongly emphasized, and the miseries he endures because of Kriemhild's schemes make him perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film. More than any other, he elicits compassion from the viewer.


Kriemhild's Revenge is a visually impressive, powerfully evocative film and leaves the viewer with feelings of deep sorrow for all its characters.

Review by Keith Allen

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