The second half of Die Nibelungen is less of a turnaround than the second half of Ivan the Terrible, but even so it’s still a markedly harder and nastier film; eschewing the magic business and wonderland aspect of the first film (no dragons or things to make you invisible), we get instead a quite terrifying vision of one woman’s madness. Understandably grieving after the murder of her husband Siegfried, Kriemhild (whose own foolishness, as seen in part 1, was arguably the main reason for his death) finds no comfort at the Burgundian court, who will not surrender the killer Hagen, and turns instead to an alliance with Attila the Hun. She has him summon the Burgundians to his court, but balks at her insistence upon killing Hagen there; Attila will not kill a guest who hasn’t wronged him. And then Hagen does so in horrible fashion when he kills the child Kriemhild has borne him. Things only go downhill from there. This is an amazing scene, because you suddenly realise just how psychotic Kriemhild has evidently turned; I got the feeling she gave birth to this child purely so this appalling thing would happen. And as I said, it only gets worse from there; as things progress we come to the realisation that Kriemhild would, probably quite literally, destroy the entire world and everyone/everything therein if it stood between her and Hagen. By the end of proceedings I was kind of shattered. As with Siegfried, I’ve previously only known this in much shorter form, cut to about 90 minutes or less; in this version the carnage is only just beginning where that hacked-up job was already over. I only wish that when Masters of Cinema take their high-definition masters to scale them down to standard-definition that they’d do them in PAL rather than NTSC as they’ve done here (and on a few other releases of theirs lately), but otherwise no complaints about their stellar release; if the production of the film was a nightmare, the end result still stands up as an astounding thing of wonder.
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge (1924)