Nibelungen, Die

Director: Fritz Lang
Year Released: 1924
Rating: 4.0

One of the greatest silent movies - and among the greatest films in all of German cinema - is this two-part fantasy based on an ancient epic poem (think The Odyssey) called the Nibelungenlied about brave and noble Siegfried (Paul Richter), his marriage to Kriemhild (Margarete Schön) and his betrayal at the hands of his 'friend' King Gunther (Theodor Loos) over the mad Queen of Iceland, Brunhild (Hanna Ralph). The "Siegfried" component documents Siegfried's rise to power as a sword-smith, dragon-slayer and immortal and his downfall when his wife unexpectedly reveals his 'weak spot' (an area on his back where he can be killed); the "Kriemhild's Revenge" segment has Siegfried's widow teaming up with King Attila/Etzel of the Huns (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) to wage a counterattack against her own brother, demanding revenge - as another notable German, Friedrich Nietzsche, once remarked, "In revenge and in love woman is more barbarous than man" ... and many of the main figures die as a result. Everything is a marvel: the sets, the compositions, the special effects, the makeup, the pacing, the acting, and the story is a classic - though indeed it is "dedicated to the German people," the German people Lang was referencing wasn't the Nazi Party (and its followers), as Lang's disgust with Hitler's Minions couldn't be more apparent based on his later actions in life. If anything, Die Nibelungen could be viewed as a cautionary tale against vengeance and the power-mad, and even the powerful "overman" Siegfried is not completely immune to death.