". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King - Movie For the Longest Nights

Despite the cheesy title that it's been cursed with in English, Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King (2004) is an excellent film for an audience that loved LOTR, the Icelandic production of Beowulf, heros, swords and dragons, as well as a good story and a carefully constructed plot. Written by SF writers, Diane Duane and Peter Morwood, and by Uli Edel.

This is German/Italian/South African (it was filmed entirely in South Africa) television production of the Nibelungen. From the best I could determine the DVD version we get here in the U.S. is missing 50 minutes of the original 3 hours running time. Perhaps that is because it ran on the Sci-Fi Channel, and that's how they do. The absent material is missed. The work is known by at least five different titles including this Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King: Ring of the Nibelungs, Die Nibelungen, Curse of the Ring, and Sword of Xanten, depending where its released, and the channel or network on which it is shown.

The essence of what Tolkien extracted from the Volsunga/Nibelungen sagas shines through all the parts this production's story – particularly the ring, the dragon and the broken sword, and its influence upon the creation of Rohan and the shield maiden, Éowyn. Dark Kingdom's music echos that of the LOTR films.

Other of its motifs are common in Anglo-Saxon - Nordic literature as well. The love potion that makes Erik/Siegfried forget Brunhild and fall in love with Kriemhild, a la Tristran and Isolde, or the tarn helm Erik/Siegfried takes as booty from the dwarf, Alberich, that allows the wearer to assume another's physical identy, a la King Uther, who fathers King Arthur upon Queen Ygraine. Erik/Siegfried fights to win a bride for another, a la Tristram for King Mark. Is there anything more dishonorable, more foul, than to use magic to get another man to fight your battles for you and win the bride that rightfully belongs to him for you? How could any man live with himself who does that, and hear for the rest of his days, "You are not the man I thought you to be. You are not the man I thought I married."

The design of the now long-departed imperial Rome is in the private apartmens of the court, in their clothing and decor in ways that are plausible and harmonious. Historically this is probably as close to what things in these northern kingdoms of forests and mountains may have looked like in their courts, both rough hewn and functional fortresses with this latin luxury of style, clothing, personal possessions and furniture – with the latin style still employed as well in defense and battle technique.

The design of the palace of the Queen of Iceland, Brunhild, makes one glad for contempory heating. It's coldly, pointedly, fatally beautiful like the Queen herself, when betrayed. For she herself is straight as good blade, and honest. The actress (Kristanna Loken) who plays the Queen of Iceland, is marvelously strong and non-femme beautiful.

The Saxons who warred upon Sigfried/Erik's parents are the pagan monster bad guys. The blacksmith, Eyvind (Max von Sydow), rescues child Siegfried, naming him Erik. Eyvind's home on a river of Burgend is a place you'd like to live. Chickens roost fearlessly there. The dragon Fafnia is a true Wrym, given us via CGI. The battle between Fafnia and Erik/Siegfried is tense and bloody. The scenes of Erik/Sigfried bathed in the blood of the dragon are convincingly gross.

This is another in a collection you might be making for the long dark nights and the short days of the Yuletide season.

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