Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924)

For some reason it just seemed right to view this after rewatching Ivan the Terrible. Partly because I actually bought it the day before (and it was amusing to see Ivan cited in the booklet essay excerpted from Lotte Eisner), but also because it’s another two-part historical epic (whether more or less mythological than Ivan I cannot say, even if it does include dwarves and a dragon and magic stuff—though I never realised until tonight there actually is an admittedly very remote historical basis for the legend), and just as Stalin loved at least Ivan part 1, so too was this film beloved of his German counterpart… which wasn’t Fritz Lang’s fault, mind you, we can’t blame the director this time. Hitherto, though, I’ve only seen the two Nibelungen films in shorter form; I think the version I’ve previously seen of this might’ve been the American one from 1925, but I’m not sure, I only know it was about half an hour shorter than the Masters of Cinema disc I’ve just watched. I don’t know all what was “new”, but I was delighted to finally see the brief but lovely animated sequence by Walther Ruttmann. And I still love the dragon, even if it was too unwieldy to actually do much (though the fire-breathing is impressive); I love that it was a full-scale mechanical object, and that you can see just how big the damn thing really was, no trickery… I was particularly struck for some reason by Siegfried himself, though; he may be the (nearly) invincible dragonslayer, call kings his vassals, own the Nibelung treasure and all of that, and yet there’s something awfully naive about him… he’s obviously been fool enough to let it be known that he does have one vulnerable point (his “Siegfried Shoulderblade”?), and clearly doesn’t even remotely suspect Hagen when the latter’s about to spear him. It’s remarkable stuff, slow but rarely draggy, and now I can’t wait to revisit the second part…

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