Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre, The Wrath Of God)" (director: Werner Herzog)

This legendary 1972 film from Herzog again stars the late Klaus Kinski, and it's a riveting and intense journey with similar themes to Herzog's other works (like the equally memorable "Fitzcarraldo"). The tale follows Spanish conquistadors in their travels through South America in search of El Dorado's mythical gold. Along their path, the small group of travelers and warriors (and their Indian slaves) encounter unfriendly natives, unforgiving terrain, and the might and awe of the Amazon River herself. Suffice to say, they never quite make it to their destination, with greed, infighting, and folly getting the best of the crew. Kinski's role as the delusional and power-mad Aguirre is perfect, bordering on utter madness and with a touch of menace. At the same time, his fellow conquistadors do little to evoke any sense of empathy for their gluttonous and selfish ways, either. It's a study in the perseverance and ultimate doggedness that mankind faces against the fury of nature. Shot on location, the scenery is virtually unspoiled, with primeval rainforests and wildlife the only background. Herzog's camerawork is respectful and majestic, surveying the vast expanses of untamed South America in a drifty, dreamlike state. Here, man is the outsider, and he has no respite from the elements. Pace-wise, "Aguirre" may seem a tad slow-moving to some modern film-goers, but Herzog's films aren't about action or thrills, but moreso character studies, set in incredibly remote locations. A masterful film, well worthy of the accolades it's received over the decades.

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