DIE NIBELUNGEN PART TWO: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE OR KRIEMHILDS RACHE. (1924) BASED ON THE EPIC POEM ‘NIBELUNGLIED,’ BY ANONYMOUS.
DIRECTED BY FRITZ LANG. SCREENPLAY BY FRITZ LANG AND THEA VON HARBOU.
STARRING MARGARETE SCHŐN, THEODOR LOOS, RUDOLF KLEIN-ROGGE, RUDOLF RITTNER AND HANS ADALBERT SCHLETTOW.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This magnificent movie, the sequel in Fritz Lang’s two-film epic drama, DIE NIBELUNGEN, based on an equally epic poem penned in about the year 1200 in the language known as Middle High German, will take your breath away. I like it even more than Part One, SIEGFRIED.
In Part Two, and it’s called KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE for an excellent reason, Queen Kriemhild of the Burgundian royal family is still devastated by the murder of her beloved husband, Siegfried, by Hagen Tronje, the fearsome one-eyed, bearded warrior of the Burgundian kingdom.
Hagen Tronje is endlessly loyal (even unto death) to the King of Burgundy, Kriemhild’s rather wimpy brother Gunther. Gunther refuses to have Hagen Tronje killed for Siegfried’s murder, and, in fact, the whole family of royal Burgundian brothers close ranks around Hagen Tronje to protect him.
Kriemhild is so disgusted that, when Margrave Rűdiger of Bechlarn comes to Burgundy to tell her that his King, Attila of the Huns, wants to marry her, she accepts. Especially when Rűdiger assures her of Attila’s warlike nature and the fact that he would avenge a hundredfold any wrongs done to Kriemhild by any man…
Her little feminine brain starts working overtime. Could Attila possibly be the one to avenge her poor fallen Siegfried? She tells Rűdiger she’ll marry his king, and they set out immediately for the kingdom of the Huns, a warlike, nomadic people who were ruled in real life by Attila the Hun for the relatively short time of 434-453.
The Huns are portrayed as proper savages in the film, compared to the relative sophistication of the Burgundians, who sleep in proper beds and have nice fancy chainmail armour and huge stone castles and stuff.
The Huns crouch in trees like monkeys and whoop, shriek and chatter like monkeys too, they wear animal skins to (just about) clothe their nakedness and they sleep on animal skins, on the mud floors of their straw huts. They have dark skin, wild hair and wild staring eyes, and this includes the women, of whom we see very little.
I don’t think that women featured very prominently in real life Hun households of the time. They probably stayed home, cooked the food, submitted to animalistic sex and the odd thump and died in childbirth, judging by the look of the place and its primitive peoples.
The men were the important ones, the warriors, the providers, the hunter-gatherers, the ones who got the biggest chunks of meat and the most comfortable spot on the dirt floor for sleeping.
The Huns’ eyes are out on stalks when they see Kriemhild. Tall, blonde, statuesque, with a beautiful cold face, huge expressive eyes and two plaits of hair that reach nearly to her ankles, she’s the polar opposite of their crouching, swarthy, simian-like semi-savagery.
(You’ll remember me mentioning when we reviewed DIE NIBELUNGEN PART ONE: SIEGFRIED that Hitler and Goebbels both loved this film. Can you see what I’m getting at here?)
King Attila, a fascinating character, is head-over-heels in love with her from the moment he first sets eyes on her. With his grotesquely large, mis-shapen head atop a short, wiry body and his ferocious-looking face deeply scored with battle scars that even criss-cross through his cruel mouth, he’d be enough to give any young virgin the heebie-jeebies at the thought of having to go to bed with him.
Attila’s men later complain that the fearsome war king, who went to war at the drop of a hat and was never happier than when he was breaking in an unruly horse, has been made soft and ineffectual by his infatuation for ‘the white woman.’ ‘Her tresses bind up the horseman…’ Well, if they think he’s dotty for Kriemhild now and besotted with her, just wait till she presents him with a beautiful, curly-haired son…!
The ferocious war king is reduced to the level of a blob of ecstatically happy jelly to see his new baby boy. He’s pathetically grateful to Kriemhild on this joyous occasion, even though she’s been nothing but cold and distant towards him. She may have been obliged to give him her body, but her heart, which she keeps under lock and key, is frozen in ice and belongs only to the dead Siegfried.
I’ll happily grant you one wish as a thank you for this wonderful son, he tells Kriemhild, who replies, sweetly and innocently, with: Oh, I’d give anything to see my beloved brothers again. No problemo, says Attila, before swiftly despatching his own brother to Worms on the Rhine to ask Gunther, Giselher and Gerenot of Burgund to pop along to the kingdom of the Huns to visit their dear sister Kriemhild.
Kriemhild, of course, knows that her brothers never travel without their devoted bodyguard, Hagen Tronje, her hatred for whom has not abated one iota since she’s lived in the land of the Huns. Her desire for revenge is so strong that she’s prepared to see everyone she loves perish horribly before she eventually realises that she’s gone too far.
The dénouement is magnificent to look at, but sad, chilling and tragic in the extreme, with an eerie foreshadowing of the Holocaust in the hellish inferno of Kriemhild’s making.
Just look at her standing there with arms folded tightly, or one arm extended, or the closed fist beating on the breast, with her closed-off, unyielding face and ice-cold eyes unchanging in expression, and see who she reminds you of.
Poor, poor King Attila. He’ll rue the day he ever heard the lady’s name, all tied up in death and destruction as it is. What a narrative. What a musical score, what a visual experience, what a film! Book yourself some time off and watch it. End of transmission.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.