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Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen: Kino Classics Deluxe Remastered Edition - Blu-ray Review

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die-nibelungen - blu-ray review

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5 stars

Greed and revenge are two of the most primal motivators in all of storytelling.  Combine these elements with a fantastical setting that practically bleeds brooding splendor and you have the dense dragontastic beginnings of Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, a two-part epic from the silent era.  Painstakingly remastered by Kino and debuting on blu-ray this month, Die Nibelungen remains a masterpiece of the fantasy genre that I fear very few will ever see.  One tends not to pay silent pictures their due in the modern era.  It’s a shame.  Audiences and filmmakers could learn a lot from Fritz Lang (Metropolis) and his rich visual-oriented storytelling.

The 288-minute film was originally released in two parts; Siegfried in 1925 and Kriemhild’s Revenge in 1928.  The focus of the two features and the story itself is that of a cursed treasure and all those who own it.  A boy, after bathing in dragon’s blood, learns of invisibility and the dangers of the outside kingdom’s as he travels the land in search of a destiny that never ceases to amaze the viewer.

Written by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou (his wife at the time), the movie closely follows the epic poem it is based upon, “Nibelungenlied” hailing from 1200 AD, and tells of the adventurous Siegfried (Paul Richter) and his many challenges upon his decision to marry Kriemhild (Margarete Schön), the princess of Burgundy.  His dark journey takes him straight to the heart of a dragon, a battle with a dwarf king, a sparkling treasure, political intrigue, an Icelandic battle, and new friendships almost undone by a revealed secret between two Queens.

With enough action beats to please an audience of ADHD tweakers, Die Nibelungen is surprisingly modern in how it slays its own dragons.  There is fancy sword play against lavishly designed sets and enough large number battle sequences to spot Lang’s influence over writer/director Peter Jackson (The Hobbit).  Richter looks the part of the young warrior champion and, as was the style of the silent era, overacts with the best of them.  Everything is theatrical and expressive and, as a result, Richter’s performance is downright lyrical in its depth as a young man becomes king and must face his own fate at the hands of a manipulating queen.

The epic is one of the best made fantasy films ever.  There’s simply no other way to put matters.  Lang, in 1924, was at the height of his filmic powers and poured all his visual prowess into every single frame.  Thunderously, it simply out performs today’s fantasy offerings.  Hands down.  Put on Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.  Watch it.  Then, watch this.  You’ll see EXACTLY what I am talking about.  The CGI in Jackson’s films are wonderfully explicit but there’s simply no substitute for the real thing.  Mountains, swords, trolls, treasure, and - sounds familiar, I know - a 40-foot long dragon puppet that breathes fire.  It’s an astonishing special effect that STILL works.  In fact, because of their practicality and their physicality, they all work beautifully.

Masterfully.

Ingeniously.

Lang’s Die Nibelungen, while trading fantasy for the dark side of human nature in its final two hours, is a breathtaking display of the power of film.  Dangerously delicious, the epic is comparable to Homer’s Iliad in its narrative depth and second to none in its visual energy.  This is required viewing for any student of film or any person lusting for some real fantasy.

{2jtab: Film Details}

die-nibelungen - blu-ray reviewMPAA Rating: This title has not yet been rated by the MPAA.
Runtime:
140 mins.
Director
: Fritz Lang
Writer
: Fritz Lang; Thea von Harbou
Cast:
Gertrud Arnold; Margarete Schön; Hanna Ralph; Paul Richter; Theodor Loos
Genre: Fantasy | Drama | Adventure
Tagline: Die Nibelungen
Memorable Movie Quote:
Distributor:
Universum Film (UFA)
Home Video Distributor: Kino Video
Release Date: 1925
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 6, 2012

Synopsis: Siegfried, son of King Sigmund, hears of the beautiful sister of Gunter, King of Worms, Kriemhild. On his way to Worms, he kills a dragon and finds a treasure, the Hort. He helps Gunther to win Krimhild, a mask that makes him invisible proves to be very useful. But because Brunhild is cursing Kriemhild, she tells her what really happened. Now Brunhild wants Siegfried's head. Is Gunther going to do her that favor?

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

die-nibelungen - blu-ray review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 6, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio: EnglishMusic: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Music: LPCM 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BDs)
Region Encoding: A

Kino’s AVC/MPEG4 encoded, 1080p transfer is packaged brilliance.  The film is 90 years old and looks nearly as crisp as a new release.  Only a few spots appear damaged and soft.  A few.  The rest of the four hour film is filled with golden detail – from the sets to the costumes to the make-up and, finally, to the special effects – everything shimmers with great contrast and fine details.  A text message appears before each part of the film that explains the restoration process and offers a rationale for some of the damage that appears on the final print.  Trust me, there’s not a lot.  This is a fine restoration that easily bests any other restoration.  On the audio side, the DTS HD-Master Audio lossless soundtrack of Gottfried Hupperz’s orchestral score is as grand as the film.  The PCM 2.0 mono track also offers a great experience if you are not set up for the DTS experience.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Unfortunately, there is no commentary on the blu-ray but, for players equipped with a BD-ROM drive, there is a film essay by film scholar Jan-Christopher Horak.

Special Features:

The Murnau Foundation’s restoration of Germany’s historic film is exquisitely detailed in a 68-minute long documentary that accompanies the film.  Here, audiences get an in-depth look at the story behind the scenes of how the fantasy film came to be and wow audiences almost 100 years ago.  Narrated with cast member recollections, the documentary is produced with nice footage from the shoot, some stills, and other production notes.  It is a fantastic look at Lang and the rise of Germany’s Nationalist movement.  Also included are two minutes of rare and valuable newsreel footage of Fritz Lang directing the feature.

  • The Legacy of Die Nibelungen (68 min)
  • Newsreel Footage (2 min)

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