Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes) Reviews
South America, 16th Century. Spanish explorer Don Lope de Aguirre leads an expedition down the Amazon river to find the fabled city of El Dorado. Beset on all sides by unfriendly natives, the journey will turn out to be a treacherous one. An even bigger enemy to the party is themselves, as they start to turn on each other. Even more problematic is their leader, who is quite oppressive and does not appear to be entirely sane.
Brilliant movie, written and directed by famed German director Werner Herzog. Herzog slowly and deliberately ramps up the intensity and insanity. Plot starts conventionally enough but then as things get more intense, becomes more unpredictable, mirroring the mindset and actions of the protagonists.
Powerful, profound ending.
Excellent work by Klaus Kinski in the lead role. Role suited him perfectly, as he himself was hardly a paragon of stability. This would be the first of five collaborations between Herzog and Kinski.
Removed from the historical context and cinematic importance and its potent subtexts, the film itself has not aged very well. An irreverent viewer or an inattentive viewing would result in a poor experience and a lot of questions about the high praise this film carries. Compounded by less than stellar supporting performances and special effects work, the film does have some flaws in need of forgiveness or overlooking in order to appreciate it for the classic it is and understand why it truly is deserving of the reputation which precedes it.
As with all of Herzog's films, he is fascinated with man's relationship to nature, sensitively watching interactions with animals, water, food, and common functions otherwise ignored by conventional films (namely the bathroom). I particularly love when Aguirre is the last man standing, reduced to his most common ancestry, surrounded by monkeys who he begs to see the wrath of God - these little fellas have neither the ego nor the inclination to ascend to man's need for such an entity who corrupts intent as we've seen.
Lit and shot like a documentary. Most shots seem very improvised, but there's a couple of circling shots around the raft which are beautifully staged, however cheaply done. The first one expresses the idea that they're going in circles while Aguirre tries to liven the morale on the ship unsuccessfully. The film then ends on a recurrence of this shot, expect now only surrounded by, appropriately, monkeys where there were once humans - this is all he has command of.
He has a very interesting way of filming and looking at things. It's very curious-like, almost like watching it from a curious child's point of view. It's incredible how he was able to capture all these memorable and dangerous moments while filming the movie. You almost get a feeling that most of these actors life's we're in jeopardy throughout the movie, which makes you watch even more closely because some parts almost seem like they weren't planned and just happened my coincidence. Klaus' acting is something to be really examined, he's a madman but in the best way.
Overall, amazing film. I haven't seen anything quite like this one and I'm very much looking forward to watching Werner's other movies.
When I looked at a summary of what this film would be about, I assumed that it was going to be a fast-paced action film. However, what I got was something entirely different. This film felt unique compared to other survival films, and I don't think that many other directors would be able to make it as good as good as Werner Herzog did. This is a kind of a film which gets more mysterious the more I think about it.
In 1560, hundreds of Spanish conquistadors leave their home in the Andes mountains in search of the fabled country of El Dorado. Running low on supplies, 40 men are ordered to scout ahead by a raft on a river. If they don't return in one week, they will be considered lost, and everyone else will return without them. However, their expedition proves to be more and more dangerous as the days go by.
As I said above, I was expecting something completely different. I was expecting a typical fast paced action/survival film. Instead, this movie had very few battle scenes. Most of the action showed a character hit by an arrow or die off-screen. We sometimes saw glimpses of Indians or heard gunfire in the distance, but every time a character was killed by the Indians, the enemy was always unseen. I feel like Herzog's reason for filming the action like this was to show how vulnerable the Spaniards were. It was almost like he was letting the audience know that they stood no chance against the Indians. This aspect also applies to other areas. For instance, after a group of people become untrusting of their leader Guzman, he is found mysteriously dead moments later. Another great scene is when one of the characters walks off into the jungle never to be seen again. However, the best use of this aspect involves the large group of people who waited for the 40 men to come back. Since they were never seen again in the film, it raised the possibility that they might be either struggling with the Indians or are already dead. I'd say that despite the exception of a single scene and a single line of dialogue, the action was perfect.
The character of Aguirre is hard to describe. The reason I say this is because it's hard for me to decide whether he was meant to be a protagonist, an anti-hero, or a villain. If I had to choose, I'd say that he falls somewhere in the middle of being an anti-hero and a villain. He seemed like a character who cared about nothing more other than having everything done the way he wants and discovering El Dorado at all costs no matter how much of his men are still alive. He didn't seem to care about the fate of his crew (except for maybe his daughter). If any of his men would try to defy him, he wouldn't hesitate to end their life. A great plot point that given us insight to how mysterious Aguirre's character is was how he wanted Ursua to die. After Ursua is sentenced to death, the leader of the group (Guzman) prevents him from dying (an action which clearly infuriates Aguirre). After Guzman's mysteriously killed off, however, there's nothing stopping Aguirre from executing the man. With that being said, I feel like Aguirre killed Guzman, because that way, he'd be able to kill Ursua without anyone stopping him. Guzman's death seemed convenient for Aguirre. Aguirre is definitely one of the more memorable movie characters I've seen in a while.
The visuals in this movie are also worth noting. They feel both awe-inspiring and unsettling. A great example of its visuals is the intro to the film. It does a great job introducing us to the environment the film takes place in. When the film starts off, we see hundreds of men and women marching down narrow paths in the mountains. The scope of this shot is amazing as it lets the audience know how insignificant the men are compared to the terrain they're walking across. It also gives you a feeling that the Spaniards and the Indians will encounter numerous hardships during their expedition. Another scene that has a similar feel to the intro is when we see the rafts floating down heavy rapids in the river. Both of these scenes show that Herzog isn't afraid of risking his crew's life just to make a film.
There are also a few haunting visual set pieces. One of these scenes occur near the end when the Spaniards see a ship up in the trees. All of them react differently to it. One person thinks that it's a hallucination while another person thinks that it's real. Aguirre tells his crew to bring the ship down so they can use it to sail to the Atlantic, but one member of Aguirre's crew immediately refuses to do so - this is one of the only times in the film where a character disobeys Aguirre. This is a disturbing scene as it shows us how weak the mental state is of the remaining crew members. Another memorable scene is the ending where monkeys overrun the raft. That scene shows how Aguirre has been conquered by nature.
In conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised with this film as it turned out to be completely different than how I imagined it would be. It's a brilliant film. It may not quite reach perfection, but it's still an outstanding and a unique film. The action scenes feel unsettling, Aguirre was a memorable villain, and the visuals evoked different moods from me. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for Herzog in the future.
The story of Spaniards in search of the lost city of gold El Dorado in the Amazon.
The film focuses on the 2nd in Charge commander who descents into madness & obsession & affects the whole group. Low Key film that is an interesting watch despite its unpredictable plot.