Chris' Review of Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes)
Deep in South American jungle there's something afoot. A splinter group from Pizzaro's expedition is sent to find El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. This group is steeped in Christianity as they spread it throughout the new land and the natives that inhabit it. It's like a trade in a way: We'll give you Christ if you give us the gold. As the film progresses and the group heads further into the jungle everything begins to fall apart as the natives become more and more restless and Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) develops the obsession of being the next Cortez.
Aguirre lends itself to so many films that came after it, particularly Apocalypse Now. The basic premise between the two films is the same. A mission on a boat slowly falls into total chaos. Just like the characters on screen, we have no idea what's around the bend in the river ahead. With Aguirre, there are two things that make it such a great movie. The first is Werner Herzog's direction. All great directors use the environment and the background as another character in their film. Herzog accomplishes this by making shots seem so beautiful and so sinister at the same time. What lies in the trees over there? Herzog gets into the soul of the jungle right along with the souls of the characters.
Of course when we talk about characters we have to discuss the second part of the Aguirre equation and that is Klaus Kinski. He is that desire, that rage, that cut throat individual that will advance to his goal no matter what the cost. He surveys the land like a god looking over his domain. He will start is own empire, even when things are at their darkest. In a way Aguirre and Kinski are bound by their identities. They're the same person in the end.
Aguirre is one of those films that people stumble upon. A story that doesn't sound like much on the surface becomes an imaginative journey into the unknown. A story that is universal in nature, Aguirre is a great piece of German cinema.