Quote of the Day: Die, Nibelungen, Die!

You Only Live Once 

‘And if you take a closer look at the Nibelungen-Lied you will see that it is not at all a heroic poem of the German people; that’s what the Rightist imbeciles before and after Hitler made it; their >prized possession< was Mein Kampf… not to even mention the hero.

‘Even Harbou, who is a thorn in your side as much as mine, realised this. (…)

‘It is a >heroic< poem of the ruling upper class! Where is there any reference to the people?!

‘I saw the Burgundian kings with their magnificent robes as a decadent social class which was already on the decline and determined to achieve its ends by any means. (…) And these decadent Burgundians proceed to perish as soon as they are confronted with a new, >savege< social stratum still in the making: the Huns.

‘No, dearest Lotte, it is not a heroic poem of the German people. There is no mention of the people anywhere in the song of the Nibelungs! How does the end go?

>…Hier hate die Mär eine Ende —

Das ist der Nibelungen Not!<

(…The tale ends here —

That is the Nibelungs’ distress!)

(Or are we to say today — but this is just between you and me, dear Lotte — capitalism ends here. That is capitalism’s distress.)’

~ Fritz Lang, to Lotte H. Eisner, 1968 letter excerpted in Fritz lang. His Life and Work. Photographs and Documents, edited by Rolf Aurich, Wolfgang Jacobsen and Cornelius Schnauber.

You and Me

Amazing how Lang reconfigures the film along left-wing lines, when it has nearly always  been regarded as a proto-nazi era epic. Lang, like a lot of Hollywood filmmakers, may well have been targeting his remarks to appeal to the sensibilities of his audience (here, the proudly left-wing film historian), but I do think his reading of the film makes more sense. After all, the 30s German re-issue of DIE NIBELUNGEN left off the entire second part, suggesting that considerable editorial intervention was necessary to make the film serve the purposes of fascism.

In the light of Lang’s groovy revolutionary comments, the film’s dedication To the German People, suddenly makes a fair bit of sense. The film is a gift to the German people, the proletariat, who will no doubt enjoy seeing their rulers hacked up and incinerated.


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