The Nibelungen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Nibelungen 

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Fritz Lang's first real blockbuster was this 1924 two-part silent epic--Siegfried and Kriemhild's Revenge--based on the 13th-century German legend that also inspired Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. In part one, Siegfried (Paul Richter), the son of a Norse king, wins the hand of the beautiful maiden Kriemhild (Margarethe Schon) and uses a magic sword to battle a fire-breathing dragon in the forest. Part two occurs after the death of Siegfried, when his widow accuses her half-brother Hagan of murdering him. Her revenge entails marrying the king of the Huns and bearing him a son, and culminates in a bloody feast. These stunning, seminal features, restored to something resembling their original form and length in 35-millimeter by the Munich Film Museum (part one is 143 minutes, part two is 129) are even more impressive in their mythical splendor than Lang's much better known Metropolis, anticipating everything from Fantasia (one lovely segment in Siegfried is animated) to Batman to Star Wars while showing Lang's plastic gifts at their most impressive. Dennis James will provide live organ accompaniment, and I hope he plays the film's stirring original score. Very highly recommended. Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 1212 E. 59th St., Wednesday, May 10, 7:00, 773-702-8575. --Jonathan Rosenbaum

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