Aguirre, Wrath of God
Running Time: 93 minutes
UK Certificate: PG
Take one extremely driven Director (Werner Herzog), one famously difficult actor (Klaus Kinski), transport them to some of the most unforgiving jungle in the world with a relatively small budget, let them try and kill each other, and what do you get? A stonewall classic, that’s what.
Aguirre (Kinski) – Mr God’s wrath – is part of an army of Spanish Conquistadors trekking their way through the Amazonian jungle in search of the fabled treasure of El Dorado. Along the way they get their cannons and sedan chairs stuck in the dense undergrowth and get horribly lost, so they send out scouting parties to try find their way. As Aguirres group are attacked by Native Americans and suffer other grisly misfortunes they mutiny against the Spanish crown. When Aguirre takes over he starts to go ever-so-slightly loopy, becomes obsessed with finding the treasure and dreams of starting a new empire with his daughter as his wife.
As soon as a procession of Conquistadors and Native Americans appear on the screen descending from the mists of an imperious mountain, it is obvious that Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes is going to be a classic. It is impossible to sum up how amazing the opening scene is without actually seeing it but it truly has a spine-tingling factor of ten. The scene is infinitely more appealing than anything a CGI orgy like 2012 can do because all the dredging through unforgiving jungle territory was done for real by the cast and crew with none of that cop-out computerised jiggery-pokery. Many books have been written about the trials and tribulations of this shoot and it features heavily in the excellent documentary My Best Fiend, which focuses on the relationship between Herzog and Kinski. Kinski is certainly at his mercurial best here (in contrast to some of the other tosh that he has been guilty of) and he brings a real madness and intensity to this one-track greedy madman. It sounds clichéd, but for 93 minutes, he is Aguirre, obviously having a great time snarling at the camera, bullying extras and geting filthy in the jungle.
The relatively slow pace of the film is kept enthralling by Herzog’s expert tension building with an unseen enemy who pick Aguirre and his crew off one-by-one without warning. Its this invisibility and the claustrophobia of the rainforest that creates the fear of an enemy that rarely appears on-screen. Herzog also brings a dreamlike quality to proceedings through his usual brand of surrealism, including a boat up a tree and an army of monkeys, and a haunting soundtrack. A must-see pint sized epic.
It's Got: A brilliant central performance, beautiful cinematography, intensity
It Needs: To be watched with subtitles. No dubbing allowed.
DVD Extras Not a right lot DVD Extras Rating: 2/10
Intense, hypnotic, and captivating – Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski are on top form in this classic pint sized epic.