Kriemhild's Dream Trailer from James Brittain on Vimeo.


Kriemhild's Dream is an attempt at a postmodern allegory. We tend to think of allegory as being a rather cut and dry affair, such as Orwell's excellent Animal Farm, where characters and events have corollaries to real world history. Kriemhild's Dream follows instead the Spenserian model, which is much messier. Schemes of symbols are created and destroyed as they are useful or not. Phenomenology is represented in symbols reflecting and refracting meaning, systems are created, altered, destroyed according to whimsy.


Britomart is the everyperson, languishing in an oppressive system that leaves her abused with hardly enough food to eat. Yet she so accustomed to this abuse she hardly notices it, responding with rolled eyes rather than shock or outrage. Her dream is to escape her vampire lord and become a knight at the court of King Uther Pendragon. She has no real hope until she meets Sir Brastias, who gives her an impossible task to prove herself. Yet with Merlin's help she prevails, slaying Vampyr and journeying to Uther's castle.


There, Merlin has convinced Uther that they can use Britomart to their own ends, and Merlin gives her a magical sword with which she cannot fail in battle. But in the midst of a bloody rampage she meets Dispair, who gives to her the realization of her growing inhumanity. Having climbed the social ladder, she has merely found herself implicated in its violence and brutality. She descends into the waves to do battle, and arbitrarily completes her quest. Her reward is to wed to her “true love,” Artigal, and she descends into a new captivity, this time as housewife. She drinks herself into oblivion.


The medieval structure, already subverted and undermined, is now abandoned entirely. Britomart now finds herself working an uninteresting and isolated job. Her boss harasses her and can't remember her name. She lives alone. She meets Igrayne, who briefly appeared earlier as Uther's queen. Now the two women strike a romance, strangely stiff and distant, as if they have forgotten how to genuinely relate to people. The film repeatedly paws at the fourth wall, the camera or microphone are seen reflected, the unreality is emphasized.


No sooner do the two women connect, creating their own space separate from ideological control, where they question their lives and motivations, than Merlin and Brastias show back up to force them back into acceptable roles. The film ends with Britomart waking alone in a vat, her blood being drained and drunk by a business man. She frees herself and wanders the city alone, eating scraps and homeless. The film ends in the tradition of Christian epics, with her redemption. Yet, this is somehow unsatisfying, tacked on, and certainly not negating the suffering of her life.


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