The Sword of Xanten (TV, 2005)


A review from SFX 140. This miniseries was directed by Uwe Boll, that’s right, Uwe Boll! And it’s actually quite good…

FOUR STARS

2004/180mins

Director: Uwe Boll

Starring: Benno Fürmann, Max Von Sydow, Kristanna Løken, Julian Sands, Alicia Witt, Samuel West

Try not to sing “Kill the Wabbit!” all the way through, it only spoils it.

The Sword of Xanten is a poor name for this two-part, multi-national co-production, if only because nobody will have a clue what it is about. It’s actually nothing less than a modern adaptation of Das Nibelungenlied, that epic Germanic saga which inspired Wagner’s Ring cycle. Maybe all the titles with “Ring” in them were taken, but The Sword of Xanten? RPG tie-in novels get better names.

This is far from the Euro-pudding shockers of yesteryear, however, and is an excellent way to bone up on The Ring without having to sit through 20 hours of singing, fat Germans. It’s a timeless tale, wherein Siegfried, the lost Prince of Xanten, grows up to slay a dragon, securing for himself the treasure hoard of the Nibelungs. Sadly, the hoard comes with a whopping great curse, and before you know it Siegfried is in Greek-tragedy levels of trouble.

The first half of the show, featuring love, war and a great-looking dragon, has a surfeit of myth to trot through, giving it a patchy feeling not helped by mittel-European production values that occasionally conjure up the ghost of TV’s Heidi. It’s only when the second episode starts that it slows down enough for the power of the tale to come through, concentrating on the greed the hoard incites and our hero’s downfall. Benno Fürmann’s wooden Siegfried suddenly takes on an air of poetic doom, while even Julian Sands, who specialises in scowling evilly and/or looking thwarted, comes into his own.

A bigger build up would have done this the world of good, but it’s still well worth a look.

DVD Extras: Five featurettes detailing the legend, the special effects, the heroes and so forth (totalling 40 mins).

Did you know?

According to legend, the cursed treasure of the Nibelungs still lies at the bottom of the Rhine. We wouldn’t advise you go looking for it.

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