The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

Conquistadors descend into madness in search of El Dorado

With a production crew that you could count on all fingers, even subtracting the one that the crazed star blew off of an extra’s hand with a pistol, and with cameras that the crazed director “liberated” from his film school, this picture was shot in the crazed depths of the Amazon where, the Method running amok, everyone seemed to go as crazy as the movie’s band of 16th-century conquistadors pursuing El Dorado. Playing Pisarro’s lieutenant who finds the expedition’s command falling to him as the body count rises, Polish-German lunatic Klaus Kinski was cast not despite his rages but because of them, which filmmaker Werner Herzog remembered from years before when the actor rented a room at his parents’ house. This tells you something about Herzog, who was determined to match Kinski insanity for insanity, both men literally threatening to shoot each other (and not in a filmic way) and periodically brandishing the firearms to do it. We shouldn’t romanticize Kinski’s psychoses: This is a man accused of sexually abusing his daughters.

The picture was a failure back home with audiences of a more Teutonic bent but a sensation in Europe and the States. How many times must Francis Coppola have subjected his own barely tethered team to screenings of Aguirre in the Philippines, where Coppola’s own Kurtz pursued Herzog’s into madness? The word “hallucinatory” was invented for this movie, gold-obsessed rapture bleeding into the river the farther into the jungle that the river takes us, swarms of wild monkeys commandeering Aguirre’s vessel. Did Herzog really mean to call his magnum opus the raft of God, and either way, whose wrath is it really? When Kinski rages, God flees the theater before the lights come on.

Read them all
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy 

 

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