Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) 4.91/5 (6)


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Rating: The Good – 91.6
Genre: Adventure
Duration: 93 mins
Director: Werner Herzog
Stars: Klaus Kinski, Ruy Guerra, Helena Rojo

Werner Herzog’s seminal film was as gruelling a shoot as Fitzcarraldo was thanks to on-location demands and the typically erratic behaviour of its brilliant but wildly eccentric lead Klaus Kinski. However, it is a memorable master work that comes across as a near perfect blend of Malick-like exploration and Kurosawa-like adventure.

Set in the late 16th century, the story follows a small scouting party who, part of Pizarro’s larger expedition, are sent ahead on the inhospitable Amazon to look for the fabled city of gold, El Dorado. Kinski plays the second in command of this party, Aguirre, who soon usurps authority, announces his intent to break ties with the expedition and indeed the Spanish Crown, forms a rag-tag new society built around the prospect of the golden city, and installs a puppet leader as its figurehead.

Despite the seemingly wide reach of its premise, Aguirre becomes a deeply introspective affair that is confined to the greedy irrational ambitions of the mind and soul. Kinski is immense as the self-styled leader upon who’s head even the crown of emperor he deems unworthy. He bestrides the raft on which he takes the remainder of his party ever deeper into the Amazon, like an imperious ruler and in whose eyes we see only endless ambition and verbose self-regard. This is the raw power of cinema harnessed through the ragings of nature and Herzog’s and Kinski’s respective depth of ability. And like all such works of art, it must be seen to be understood.

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