on 7 January 2006
This film is a well crafted melding of the early Nordic Volsunga saga and the later high German tale of the Nibelungenlied. The amalgamation brings out a heroic myth with a universal appeal that is beautifully rendered by the film makers and the cast.
The legend itself has so many elements that it is impossible to encapsulate everything in a 3 hour film (Wagner takes around 15 hours to tell the tale in Der Ring des Nibelungen), but if you know the story you may be pleasantly surprised at how many of the lesser elements the filmmakers have managed to include indirectly. An example of this would be where in the Norse legend Brunhild is imprisoned by Odin behind a wall of fire on top of mount Hindarfjall in the Alps, and cursed to sleep until rescued by a hero. This is obliquely played out in a dream/astral projection sequence in the film.
The whole cast has been well chosen and play their parts with feeling. Benno Furmann makes a solid Siegfied though I must say that Kristanna Løken surpasses even my over-developed imagination in her portrayal of Brunhild, the beautiful Valkyrie queen of Isenland (Iceland). She manages to convincingly combine the strength of the indefatigable warrior queen with a captivating vulnerability. Alicia Witt is wonderfully skillful in presenting a sympathetic portrayal of the beautiful princess Kriemhild of Burgund. There is also great support from Max Von Sydow, Samuel West and Julian Sands.
Despite the budget constraints, the film production is excellent with stunning special effects and a strong, moving musical score. It is a bit of a shame that the soundtrack doesn’t seem to be released on CD, as is so beautiful and well performed.
If you love epic myth, then add this to your basket now. You won’t be disappointed.
on 7 October 2006
As a huge follower of Wagner's 'Ring' operas and Norse myth in general, I was very excited to see this production of the magnificent 'Nibelunglied' - the story of course used by Wagner (and Tolkien too), first written down in the medieval period but telling the story of the great Norse hero Sigurd/Siegfried from roughly 1000 years earlier. This has to be the first serious filmed version since a couple of German features from the 60s, 'Siegfried von Xanten' & 'Kreimhild's Rache' which were very well done, but are now probably so rare it's not even funny. (You can still find Fritz Lang's silent 'Siegfried' from the 1920s if you're interested, however).
Anyway, on to the DVD. Mercifully the film takes itself pretty seriously, without pandering too much to the kind of juvenile dumbing-down a modern audience might expect. But it doesn't prevent younger viewers from enjoying the spectacle (though note the '12' rating), and there's plenty to keep the attention of adults too - even ones who know the story! If you don't know the story I shan't spoil it for you. But it has magic swords, a dragon, a stern heroine, an exceedingly brave hero, and a dark and tragic love story which continues to enthrall us down through the centuries. There's no histrionic acting, scenery-chewing performances or moments of daftness. The acting, scenery, effects, camerawork and soundtrack are uniformly excellent - if only we could see more 'fantasy' films made like this. It seems that it takes the Europeans to show Hollywood how to do it properly.
By the way, the soundtrack is available under the risible title 'Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King', which makes the film sound like a kiddies' animated feature! Buy the album anyway - it's an odd selection of instrumental pieces and folk/opera/metal, but if you're into bands like Therion, Nightwish, Evanessence, Skyclad and Rhapsody (which I am!) you'll get a kick out of the music.
This is more than fantasy - it's epic myth and legend!
Destiny directs our blacksmith hero (ignorant of his noble birth) to an encounter with the beautiful warrior queen. Naturally they fall immediately in love, and each makes off with a chunk of the meteorite that brought them together. I'm hazy about the details now, but somewhere in there he makes a sword from the metal and quickly becomes a dragon-slaying hero. There's a mad dwarf and a magical mask and all that stuff. It goes on...
For what is presumably a fairly low-budget production, this is a very good-looking adventure. It's full of nifty sword-play and legendary deeds of derring-do. The narrative never slows down, and however seriously you take it, it's 3 hours of great fun.
The German heroic myths have suffered in the popularity stakes in two areas. Firstly, ancient German was never required for entry to Oxbridge, and, secondly, by association with Wagner and his erstwhile fan, Hitler.
This version of the tale of Siegfried and his gold simply re-starts the story and plays it relatively straight, avoiding any of these associations. As with the Iliad or the Norse sagas there are the usual divine interventions, magic artefacts, betrayals, and misplaced tales of love that end up in lots of blood and death. The effects were not bad and I liked Fafnir, the story is a strong one and the film, though long, really could not have done it much faster. As it is we do not see Kriemhild's revenge and there are numerous other liberties taken to speed it up. The acting was occasionally a bit wooden though Hagen of Tronje (Julian Sands), as always, steals the laurels in his Loki-like role.
on 8 January 2009
Let me just say that I pretty much hate 99% of all films, particularly modern ones, they are generally a series of nasty cliches and hackneyed plots thinly disguised by clever camera-work or hip pseudo-emotional content.
I happened to catch this movie on TV the other day and after watching part 1 I was hooked. Whenever I watch a movie I always look hard and am generally disappointed, but with Sword of Xanten I couldn't believe it wasn't falling into the same lazy plot devices we see time and again.
When I had finished watching part 2 I was genuinely moved, something I haven't felt from a movie in ages. The story is very emotional and (in my opinion) brilliantly acted, especially by Kristanna Loken as Brunhild, an excellent casting choice.
This is not your usual fantasy fare but has the authenticity of legends passed down from ancient times.
More like this please movie-makers.
on 3 September 2007
I was curious about this film after seeing all the top marks it had received from reviewers here. I still didn't expect anything great from it, but it actually turned out to be not that bad in some respects, even though the production values aren't that of a typical film. I thought the music, however, was very good in parts.
I was slightly disturbed when I saw the end credits start to roll a lot sooner than I expected, but then I realised that obviously it wasn't the end. The film is split into two parts, which makes it seem more like a TV series then, but the break isn't that annoying once you realise that it is in fact not the end, and the music during the credits serves to enhance the atmosphere for watching the second half, so it works out not too bad.
I wasn't sure what to make of the acting at times. The lead character, Benno Furmann, did come across as slightly unconvincing or unnatural at points, but perhaps that was more do to with his German mannerisms than anything else!
Overall, I'd say this was a fairly good film. Had the production values been higher and the acting more palpable, it could have been great, as the underlying story is quite interesting.
As another reviewer said, the soundtrack goes by the name of 'Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King'.
on 22 May 2006
The first i heard of this film was when it showed on television. I was intrigued by the adverts for it and sat down to watch with my family.
It was a wonderful film and kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see if the wrong would be righted.
I wont go into detail lest i ruin the film for those who haven't seen it, but it is well worth buying.
At first i was disappointed with the ending because i am a happy-ever-after kind of person.
On reflection however, it was fitting and beautiful.
I have not bought this film yet, but plan on buying it soon and treasuring it.
Great film set around the time of the vikings the film is based on revenge jealousy murder and love a viking blacksmiths son falls in love with a icelantic princess but his mind is poisoned and he has no remembrance of the princess and is then married to some other this film has some great scenery a strong story and is a very enjoyable watch highly recommended.
You know you're watching something special when even Julian Sands rises above 'wooden' and into 'character'. Sword of Xanten - series of an ever changing title across the globe - should have been a disaster. A ham piece of TV hackery that stayed firmly in the 'Xena - but not as much fun' camp. Amazingly, the 2 part retelling of the Nibelung Saga is a very classy affair indeed. Solid acting, a script that avoids post modern referencing and keeps simple and straight to the point, pretty good special effects, excellent (unavailable) music and level headed directing by Uli Edel (he of 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' fame and 'Body of Evidence' stinker).
The story follows the rise and fall of Siegfried of Xanten. An innocent pawn caught up in a complicated web of deceit. Promised to the Queen of Iceland, Siegfried sets out to discover his true identity and along the way encounters a dragon seiged kingdom, a manipulative king, a beautiful princess and dark magic. Like the old epic itself, the story is a tragedy, but a captivating one at that. A twisted love story between Siegfried, the Queen and the Princess, with some excellent set pieces and imaginative action sequences (the battle on the ice is very well done).
Part 1 and part 2 are completely different in tone. Part 1 is quite light and an old fashioned adventure. Part 2 is darker and more involved with politics (of the sexual kind also), deceit, murder and greed.
It shouldn't be this good, but obviously the god's were smiling...
I'd heard of this movie but never got a chance to see it, so when I found it here on Amazon at such a good second hand price I took the chance and purchased. I noted the bad reviews ("Bad acting", "Poor quality"), and good ("Fantastic retelling", "Great musical score") and I settled in to watch it.
Now ok, it's not your Hollywood, star studded, special effects laden blockbuster - and I'm glad of it, because I think it would have lacked something if it had been. Truth to original form, for one. There was something honestly real about the acting, as if I were watching people I knew reacting to real situations in real life. Far from 'bad acting', I found it to be more true to human behaviour than the pristine, 'always knows the right thing to say at the right time' acting we see in big movies.
The locations were beautiful, stunning in fact, with shots of the Aurora Borealis and snow sprinkled pines (even though the movie was shot on location in South Africa, according to IMDB...) that took your breath away. The fight scenes weren't too bad either, although as a re-enactor no fighting scene on TV ever looks right so it's hard to make a judgement there.
The storyline follows quite closely to the original Nordic story of the Ring of the Nibelungs; obviously much is left out as the original stories are far too big to accurately portray on film! You may also recognise "Siegfried and Brunhilde", which I did without realising it was connected to the Nibelung story! Brunhilde is played superbly by Kristanna Loken (The bad droid in Terminator 3), her portrayal of a proud and courageous warrior queen so fierce she could scare the testicles off a polar bear couldn't be closer to the original story character in my opinion. Benno Furmann's Siegfried is perhaps a little understated, but I found it to be an alternative a probably more lifelike version of a 'hero' - someone who didn't know these sorts of things could happen, let alone to *them*, and makes a hash of it because they're not perfect and just human.
My 5 stars reflect how impressed I was that a 3 hour, fairly low budget film could come so close to as accurate a telling of an ancient Nordic story as one might hope to get these days. Worth watching if you're at all interested in Vikings, Nords, history, mythology or good low budget films.