Die Nibelungen (Film) Background

Die Nibelungen (Film) Background

1923. Germany. In the aftermath of the humiliating defeat in the War to End All Wars (later to be known as World War I) and the even more humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German economy inspires a new definition for the term inflation. The hyperinflation created a situation in which the concept of bringing a bucket of money to the baker to the buy a loaf of bread was only barely hyperbolic. Hope for a better future was slowly draining away from a middle class shrinking by the day and an underclass on the verge of explosion. The dream of Germans attaining their former might and glory seemed to have disappeared forever with the stroke of a pen by emissaries from Britain and America inside a French palace.

Under these conditions, Fritz Lang and his wife, screenwriter Thea Von Harbou collaborated to give the German people a reminder of their once formidable Teutonic glory. Looking back to the definitive German myth—those involving Valkyries and dragons and knights and the slaughter of Huns from the East—Lang directed a spectacular silent film so epic in scope and narrative detail that it had to be split in half and presented as two complete films: Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache (Kriemhild's Revenge).

Both films were released in 1924, Part I in February and Part II in April. Rather amazingly, the running time of the two films differ by less than two full minutes. The success of the two films set the stage for what would become Lang’s signature German film, Metropolis, which was released three years later.

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