Monday, October 25, 2010

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Werner Herzog, Germany, 1972 (8.6*)
German director Werner Herzog often became obsessed with films about obsessed men in pursuit of personal dreams above all other concerns in life. He often chose German actor Klaus Kinski because, as Herzog said, "he was quite mad", and his elastic face seems to project the madness outward for the world to see. Their confrontations are legendary, with the crew having to save Herzog from Kinski's homicidal attacks on occasion.

Kinski is the perfect choice to play Aguirre, an obsessed Spanish conquistador in South America who leads a small band of explorers on a quest for the golden city of legend, El Dorado. This is an adventure of Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness) proportions, as the descent into the wilderness coincides with Aguirre's spiritual descent.

Herzog and Kinski work best together when filming Europeans in primitive settings - Fitzcarraldo is perhaps their best and most fully realized adventure, about an opera lover determined to bring a steamship into the jungle rainforest to provide a floating platform for opera performances. The documentary Burden of Dreams shows just how obsessed Herzog became to achieve this film.

Here, in a film made during a hiatus in the Fitzcarraldo shooting in South America, we get to witness some of Kinski's best acting as a madman descending further into madness in search of the yellow metal. Fans of Herzog, Kinski, or John Huston's Treasure of the Sierra Madre will like this one.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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