Posts Tagged ‘Werner Herzog’

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972)

November 2, 2008

In true Werner Herzog style ‘Aguirre’ delves into the depths of human greed and insanity played out against a landscape of epic proportions. Klaus Kinski (Herzog’s sometime friend) becomes Don Aguirres, a ruthless Spanish conquistador on a mission to find the legendary gold of El dorado. With a small group, which also contains his daughter Ines, he journies through the Peruvian mountains and then constructs a raft which transports them down the Amazon River. Aguirre’s journey is fraught with disaster and finally he falls victim to his own grandiose fantasies.

The opening scene shows a line of human traffic descending from the clouds, down a treacherous mountain path. Herzogs determination to shoot this difficult scene pays off, as you get the sense that man is battling with nature, unwilling to admit defeat but making painstakingly slow progress. The surreal electronic music which accompanies the shot makes the scene unearthly as if these men are Gods descending from heaven.

Kinski, with his pale, skeletal face and wild eyes is captivating. He limps around, moving stiffly, with utter contempt and hatred in his bearing: he has metamorphosed into Aguirre, there is no sense that he is acting. At the end of the film, his daughter is shot and he remains the only one left apart from the dozens of monkeys that have assumed control of the raft. Kinski’s voiceover proclaims “I am the wrath of God, I will marry my daughter and found the purest dynasty” , as he is shown drifting aimlessly down river. The camera work is disorientating as the shot moves in circles around the raft and the lone figure of Aguirre; the futility of his plan is apparent.

Herzog succeeds in creating a film dense jungle, monkeys and a baby sloth are all observed closely and are as much part of the fabric of the film as the actors. It is also a testament man’s loneliness and estrangement from his natural surroundings in accordance with his belief that “nature is cruel”. Herzog is also a master at creating tension between characters, he concentrates on minute expressions and brings out the claustrophobic and combative relationship between the conquistadors who are squabbling for power. ‘Aguirre’ is a timeless story of a meglomaniac’s demise.

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