Last night in the early hours, after I got home from the airport, I started to watch Part 1 of Fritz Lang’s 1924 “Die Nibelungen" .
Here is a fascinating scene- the c13th hero, Siegfried slaying the dragon. The dragon puppet was operated by 17 people! Note the nostrils flaring with fuel propelled fire. The beginnings of the fantasy genre complete with some of the earliest celluloid special effects techniques.
Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966) was a notable film critic and theorist from the era who coincidentally shared the same first name as the Germanic hero. Kracauer a Frankfurt School and Marxist intellectual emigre to the US, fled the German dictatorship‘s extermination of difference pogrom.
He is considered an influential “cinema curator” for MOMA funded his research of their film archives and provide a critical rationale on German Expressionist film. Kracauer considered the role this film and other films of the era had on the premonition of and development of, the Nazi state and its much fetishised fascist aesthetic.
I am currently reading Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, first published in New York 1947, and on my four hour flight, last night I relished in the time I had to sit still and read and enter my imagination as I crossed the globe as if in a time capsule, to understand and visualise better the cultural memory vault of early cinema. I could not wait to get home and into my bed and stream the film through my mobile phone to an a/v flat screen positioned at the foot of my bed.
I noted the earlier cinematic mystification techniques, the excavation of and cinematic representation of folkloric myths to provide for ideological justifications for racialising legitimacy and tyrannical power.
I linked the Nazi’s uniforms to the medieval knights’ costumes which were made in the early c20th by film period-costume makers heavily influenced by the geometric constructions, notions reflective of the era’s modernist “revolutionary” vibe.
Nazi pomp and grandeur was also mirrored in the dramatic architectural structures and spacial distributions as depicted in this film.
I noted the proto-forms which influenced the the medieval costume war genre culminating in the comic book superheroes and sci-fi types with Star Wars’s Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers par exemplars of our day.
I reflected on the evolution of the global military industrial business model by noting the continual appearances and mutations of of fascist forms and phenomena as an exercise in understanding the history of my time.
I fell asleep after only 30 minutes. It is a five hour epic extravaganza. I hope to watch the entire film during this latest stint up north.
However, I was so entranced by the dragon slaying scene I thought I would post the link to an art curator colleague who came to mind as someone who might just find it as fascinating as I did.
I found the clip on line upon my waking up in my Darwin home, and though in space I am nearer to the equator, I remain so far removed from all “relevant” contexts associated with understanding the film.
However, as my experience remains a contemporary one nonetheless, and inside my bedroom I get a glimpse of the zeitgeist even if it is as an accumulation of randomly encountered and decontextualised abstract texts I source inside libraries and online archives.
However, as my experience remains a contemporary one nonetheless, as inside my bedroom I get a glimpse of the zeitgeist even if it is as an accumulation of randomly encountered and decontextualised abstract texts I source inside libraries and online archives.