It becomes very obvious in the first ten minutes of Kriemhild’s Revenge, the second part of Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, that the film is different from Siegfried. While Kriemhild’s Revenge continue the story, its mood and tone far differs from Siegfried, making it an entirely altered animal.
And what an animal it is. Siegfried is a great movie, but Kriemhild’s Revenge easily surpasses it. It’s about as enthralling as the director’s subsequent movie Metropolis.
Kriemhild’s Revenge takes place not long after the events of Siegfried. Kriemhild (Magarete Schon) mourns the death of her late husband and vows for revenge. Siegfried’s murder Hagen von Tronje (Hans Adalbert Schlettow), though, has protection from Kriemhild’s brother King Gunther (Theodor Loos). Scheming in vengeance, Kriemhild then decides to marry Lord Attila (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), the fierce leader of the Huns. After bearing Attila a child, Kriemhild asks her husband to invite Gunther and his men to their palace, which eventually leads to an all-out path of destruction.
Siegfried was a fantasy film, diving in the depths of imaginations. Its eponymous protagonist was a hero out of a fairytale: he fought a dragon, helped a king, and married a princess. Kriemhild’s Revenge’s foundation, though, is cemented by realism. Kriemhild is hell-bent on revenge and wreaks destruction in her path. In a way, Kriemhild’s Revenge is a 12th century adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Kriemhild’s Revenge distinguishes itself as a tragedy. It revels in the unpleasantness of its characters, particularly Kriemhild, who becomes so fixated on revenge that she does not seem human. The dark tone of Kriemhild’s Revenge may turn off viewers but I found it emotionally gripping. In a way, Die Nibelungen, as a whole, exists in the same format as Metropolis. The first part of both exists to amaze audiences while the second half deals with tragedy and portrayal. Metropolis was one movie though while Die Nibelungen is two parts.
Lang never loses the epic scope of the first part. While not featuring any major visuals such as the giant puppet dragon, Kriemhild’s Revenge boasts large fighting sequences that match today’s standards. Lang’s effort and devotion to his project are evident and solidify the movie as a visual gem. Lang’s actors also play a large part in the film. Schon gives a magnificent performance as Kriemhild, perfectly playing the character’s emotions and anxieties. Kriemhild is a fine example of an antihero, acting on her own selfish and destructive goals. Kriemhild does not care of the harm she causes for others, only concerned on the death of Tronje.
A masterpiece of epic scale, Kriemhild’s Revenge and Die Nibelungen as a whole displays Lang’s gift for filmmaking. Miraculous and exciting, then angry and tearful, Lang stirs up many emotions, making Kriemhild’s Revenge one of the director’s most effective pieces.