Film of the Week: AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (1972)

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

Film: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Director: Werner Herzog
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Ruy Guerra, Helena Rojo
Year: 1972
Language: German
Run time: 90 minutes

The first week of college is over. The weekend is here. Time to watch a 70’s German Art Film! Doesn’t really sound exciting, does it? Especially when something as original as Kick is still running in theatres.

Even so, to the more adventurous souls out there, willing to try something a bit more challenging, the film I would suggest for you this week is Werner Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God‘. This mid-70’s film is often considered to be, along with Fassbinder’s ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul‘, the quintessential film of the New German Cinema. Aguirre can be a little hard to watch, but if you are brave enough, it is definitely going to be worth it. The focal point of the film is Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), commander of an expedition in search of El Dorado (mystical city of Gold), through the dense, muddy jungles of the Peruvian Andes. Aguirre’s rapid descent into madness, as the expedition extends indeterminately, becomes clear to the audience as it is made increasingly aware of the ruthlessness of nature, in its complete indifference to human ambition. Kinski’s manic obsession in playing the titular role and the Herculean task of shooting on location in the Amazonian forests makes watching the film such a fascinating experience.

Herzog, sharing a casual moment with Kinski.

Herzog, sharing a casual moment with Kinski.

One of the things film buffs always love to argue about is the greatest director-actor combination of all time. Some of the more obvious combos which come to mind are Scorsese-De Niro, Kurosawa-Mifune, and Wilder-Lemmon. Personally, I think nothing comes close to the partnership shared by Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. The two worked together in 7 films, all of which are masterpieces in their own right. However, what makes them truly special is not just the quality of their work, but the tumultuous relationship they shared on a personal level. Kinski makes the age-old adage ‘no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness’ feel especially true, because he, without a doubt, was a certified lunatic! The fits of insanity he pulled off during the filming of Fitzcarraldo is a stuff of legends. After Kinski’s death, in remembrance of their bitter-sweet relationship, Herzog decided to release a documentary (My Best Fiend : 1999) accounting their strange, yet productive partnership. Here’s an extract of the film documenting one of Kinski’s fits of rage, directed, this time, at one of the crew members. However, Herzog was always able to channel Kinski’s volatility in a positive manner, producing some of the most iconic films coming out of Germany and thereby cementing both their individual legacies.

'Aguirre' had an enormous influence on Coppola's vision of 'Apocalypse Now'.

‘Aguirre’ had an enormous influence on Coppola’s vision of ‘Apocalypse Now’.

Herzog ,himself, is a truly fascinating individual. His take on nature, a theme he has fallen back on a number of occasions, will definitely leave you filled with sense of wonder. For me, he stands on an equal footing with the Kubricks and the Fellinis of the world. I saw my first Herzog film, Aguirre, on the first day of my second year in college. Honestly, I don’t know what took me so long to discover him. But when I did, I was so awed by him and the sheer grandioseness of his films that I swear that I binge-watched every one of his videos on Youtube that very night. Me, sharing this film, is with the slight hope that it produces a similar effect on all of you.



Glasnost will showcase a new film every Friday.

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