The Curse of the Ring (Ring of the Nibelungs) (2004)

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Released 12-Jul-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer
Featurette-The Sagas
Featurette-The Journey Begins
Featurette-Our Heroes
Featurette-Swords
Featurette-Sorcery
Trailer-The Forgotten, Bobby Jones: Stroke Of Genius
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 176:45 (Case: 184)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Uli Edel
Studio
Distributor
Tandem Comms
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Benno Fürmann
Kristanna Loken
Alicia Witt
Julian Sands
Samuel West
Max Von Sydow
Robert Pattinson
Mavie Hörbiger
Aletta Bezuidenhout
Sean Higgs
Götz Otto
Ralf Moeller
Tamsin MacCarthy
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Ilan Eshkeri
Ian Honeyman
Andrew Raiher


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Croatian
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Romanian
Slovenian
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sometime in the Fifth Century AD, the castle of King Siegmund of Xanten is besieged and overrun by a vast digital army. Queen Sieglind manages to escape from the castle with their young son Siegfried, but not before the latter witnesses his father's murder. While trying to cross the river, the party of escapees are attacked and all bar Siegfried are killed. Drifting down the river on a log, Siegfried is found by Eyvind (Max von Sydow), a blacksmith who decides to raise the orphaned infant, who has lost all his memory.

    Years later (twelve to be exact), Siegfried has grown into a powerful young man (Benno Fürmann), well practised in the arts of the smithy. One afternoon on the wharf while fetching water he sees a longboat heading down the river, on board which is a striking blonde woman. She turns out to be Queen Brunhild of Iceland (Kristanna Loken). That night a meteor crashes near the blacksmith's home, and Siegfried goes to investigate. In the crater he finds a glowing ore, but suddenly a cloaked figure arrives. They fight, and Siegfried forces his foe to the ground. He soon discovers that his foe is in fact Brunhild, and that there are better things they can do than wrestle with each other.

    The next morning Brunhild is gone. Siegfried and Eyvind head down the river to deliver some weaponry to the local King of Burgund, Gunther (Samuel West). On the way they notice houses smouldering, and it turns out that Fafnir, the local dragon, has awoken from his sleep and is laying the countryside bare. Gunther and his half-brother Hagen (Julian Sands) lead an expedition to slay the dragon. Hagen has learned from his father Alberich, a mysterious dwarf who lives in the forest and has serious grooming issues, that Fafnir sleeps on the horde of the Nibelungs, a vast treasure belonging to a now almost extinct race (of which Alberich is the last vestige). Gunther and his men are beaten back by the dragon. Siegfried decides to forge the ore from the meteorite into a sword, which is the only weapon capable of slaying Fafnir. He does so, but the consequences for all are pretty dire, as the treasure is cursed.

    This is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the Nibelungenlied, an epic poem dating from about the 12th Century. It has also borrowed some material (mainly the dragon) from the similar and earlier Norse epic Volsungasaga. It is by no means the first adaptation of these works. The German composer Richard Wagner spent some fourteen years working on a cycle of music dramas eventually staged as Der Ring Des Nibelungen, running some fifteen hours in performance over four nights. In 1924 Fritz Lang directed a two part five hour film based on the saga, deliberately steering away from Wagner's influential conception. These two films were remade in the mid-1960s, again in Germany. There was also an early 1970s skinflick called The Long Swift Sword of Siegfried. It has been claimed that the original sagas inspired The Lord of the Rings, but while there are superficial similarities (a magical but cursed ring, a race of dwarves and so on) the stories are quite different, both in storyline and in tone. However, I suspect that the success of the recent films of the Tolkien works inspired the producers to make the film under consideration.

    I was anticipating this to be some sort of Euro-pudding. The presence of a German director and an international cast led me to expect the usual poorly-delivered English dialogue that is a hallmark of these multi-country co-productions. However, some effort has been made to overcome the usual pitfalls, although unfortunately only with mixed success.

    What is impressive about this programme is the production design and scenery. Much of it was computer generated, but most of the time it looks realistic, or at least blends in with the real locations seamlessly. The dragon itself is impressively done. However, the problems start with the direction, which is fairly pedestrian. The only sequence that really springs to life and generates any excitement is Siegfried's fight with the dragon, which as it turns out was done entirely in the digital domain, the actor performing in front of a green screen. The rest of the movie is a little lacklustre. The script operates at around the level of a daytime soap opera, with banal dialogue, and the performances match that standard.

    Benno Fürmann is apparently a talented actor, having studied at The Actors Studio and having a reasonable English speaking voice. However, as Siegfried he is too knowing and too sophisticated. The character would be better played as an untutored and simple but heroic figure. Fürmann does not come across as heroic. But he fares no worse than the rest of the cast. Kristanna Loken played a robot in Terminator 3 and continues the same characterisation here. That's probably a bit unfair: she rather fits the daytime soap opera analogy - all intensity and physical beauty but expressionless and lacking in character and nuance. It doesn't help that she and Fürmann look like they have just come from the solarium. Samuel West fails to convince as a king by not conveying the dignity and majesty of office nor being convincing when Gunther suspects Siegfried of treachery. In fairness to him he seems badly miscast. Alicia Witt spends most of the movie (she plays Gunther's sister Kriemhild) with her mouth open, though she is not too bad in the role. I never thought I would ever say this, but Julian Sands walks away with the acting honours. He looks right for the part of the duplicitous Hagen, with his hair dark and his features slightly hardened with age. His delivery of lines has not improved greatly and is still unconvincing, but this is only a problem in the relatively long speech he makes to Gunther near the end of the movie. Max von Sydow is good but really does not have a well-written role.

    Also at fault are the unconvincing crowd scenes. In the two sequences involving armies, digital effects are used to increase the number of soldiers, and the seams show. On the other hand, the sequences in Burgund have a laughably small number of peasants cheering their leaders on.

    The story in this film only covers half of the Nibelungenlied, the same as the first part of each of the two movie versions. The story as told here does not really allow for a follow-up telling the remainder of the story. I have not seen the later German films, but the Fritz Lang epic is a remarkable achievement. The dragon, while impressive for 1924, is not in the same league as its digital counterpart, but the film looks astonishing and is very entertaining. It is currently available on DVD in Region 1 but a newer restoration is slated for release at the end of this year in the UK.

    Re-reading my comments above I may seem unduly harsh. The movie is not often boring, but for every time I thought "that's impressive", there were half a dozen times I said to myself "this is so bad". If you are in an undemanding mood you may find this movie entertaining. What is included on this disc is the two-part television version, complete with about ten minutes of end credits at the end of the first episode, opening credits for episode two and a reprise of the story from part one. The movie was also released in a shorter theatrical version called Sword of Xanten running about two hours. The TV version was originally titled The Ring, then Kingdom in Twilight, then Ring of the Nibelungs and now Curse of the Ring.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This appears to be the original aspect ratio.

    If I understood the extra material correctly, the entire film was shot in high definition digital, but there are only a few sequences that look as if they were shot digitally (Siegfried climbing the wall to get away from the dragon and the contest in the snow are two examples). Otherwise it looks like it was shot on film. Everything is very sharp and clear, with considerable detail where the depth of focus allows it. Colours are a little muted, an effect not helped by lighting which removes natural shadows from faces. It seems also that some of the colour effects are deliberate - this can be seen clearly in the closing sequences at the Burgund castle.

    The only artefacts I noticed were some low level noise in the darkened rooms of the Burgund castle, and some pixelization on the foliage in the forest during the hunt. There are no film artefacts.

    Optional subtitles are provided in a clear white font and seem to be very close to the dialogue. There are a few lines in dialect for which subtitles appear without having the subtitles switched on, though they do not seem to be burned-in.

    This is a two-disc set with the entire feature contained on disc one. The layer break occurs between episodes at 90:06.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks, being the original English soundtrack and an Italian dubbed track, both in Dolby Digital 5.1.

    This is a very good soundtrack with no obvious problems. Dialogue is clear at all times. The surround mix spreads the audio well across all channels. Rear channel activity is high, with effects and music to the fore. There are a lot of low frequency effects throughout, clearing the cobwebs from the subwoofer. Rarely did these seem excessive.

    The only quibble I would have with the sound is that the acoustics of some of the locations did not seem quite right. I did not see any evidence that any of the dialogue was post-synched, but there was a lack of ambient noise, even in the outdoor scenes. Perhaps the actors were very closely miked.

    The music score is by Ilan Eshkeri. It is highly derivative, with the same sort of Celtic lilt and melismas that characterised the music for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. To that extent it is distracting, though for much of the running time it disappears into the background. There is a terrible song at the end.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    On paper this seems like a lot of extras, particularly when they are all on a second disc. However the five featurettes add up to a total of less than thirty-eight minutes. In theory this could have been accommodated on a single disc with the feature. The featurettes each concentrate on an aspect of the production, with interviews with the cast and crew. All are in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with letterboxed excerpts from the movie.

Main Menu Audio

    The menu has music from the score.

Dolby Digital Trailer (0:35)

    The trailer plays before the start of the movie.

Featurette-The Sagas (7:00)

    Background to the original story and the film's conception, surprisingly without any reference to Wagner's definitive adaptation, given that something is made of the writers' conflation of several stories, which is what Wagner did.

Featurette-The Journey Begins (8:06)

    This concerns the production, including the special effects.

Featurette-Our Heroes (11:01)

    This one concentrates on the actors. According to her testimony, when reading the script Loken paused only once, to go to the toilet. I'm really glad I know that.

Featurette-Swords (5:20)

    This short piece covers the fight choreography.

Featurette-Sorcery (7:32)

    As you might guess, this covers the technical wizardry behind the special effects.

Trailer-The Forgotten, Bobby Jones: Stroke Of Genius (4:27)

    Trailers for other releases from this distributor.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At the moment the only DVD release appears to be in Region 4.

Summary

    An often cringe-inducing version of the Nibelung saga.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    A small collection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Really not that bad, no need to be so harsh - Anonymous
... - Nick Moraitis