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Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Werner Herzog

Starring:
Klaus Kinski/Aguirre
Helena Rojo/Inez
Cecilia Rivera/Flores
Daniel Ades/Perucho
9 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
In the year 1500, the ruthless Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) takes over an expedition by force (Can you spell “mutiny”? He can) seeking to reach the legendary city of El Dorado, which is supposed to be filled with all kinds of gold. The dude has no problem risking his life and that of his crew to attain his destination i.e. obsession.
THE LOWDOWN

I’m not sure what’s more fascinating; the novel end product that is Aguirre: The Wrath of God (WATCH IT HERE), or the bold and INSANE way Werner Herzog went about the production. I looked around for a Making Of documentary about the film, but alas didn’t find shit. To give you an idea; they filmed on location (with a budget of 370.000$) in the Peruvian Jungle and on the Amazon River with a crew of 8 people. The film was shot in sequence, they had no stunt men and lots of what wound up onscreen was improvised, often shaped by the mishaps that befell them. The cast and crew basically lived in tents and on the rafts that were used in the film and Herzog would often put his team through hell to get the coverage that he needed.

For example the majestic opening shot of our adventurers going down a mountain was achieved via Herzog leading his cast/crew (along with the many animals that are in the scene) up a treacherous mount, reaching an altitude of about 2000 feet (that's quite a hike), to then have them walk it down for the take. And I won’t even get into the monkeys that they used biting people, star Klaus Kinski firing the finger off of a noisy extra with a rifle, Kinski almost killing a guy by hitting him on the head with a sword or Herzog threatening to kill Kinski and himself if the former walked off set. Nope, won't get into that :) The out there shenanigans in terms of the making of this flick are freaking endless; I can write a book about it! Research it online if curious, nutty stuff! Thankfully, the sheer madness that was the shoot definitely seeped out of every frame of the film itself, most likely because nobody was freaking acting!

The performers were truly in danger when it came to battling the savage elements (like that raft scene for example) and Kinsky himself was threatening and volatile on set, hence people’s reactions to him were beyond organic. In short the danger and the fear in the picture felt REAL because they were real. THROWAWAY NOTE: I loved it when the water or/and the fog would hit the lens now and again - added to the overall grit of the piece. END OF THROWAWAY NOTE. The hypnotizing, dread filled and otherworldly feel of the thing charmed the Night of the Living Shite out of me as well. Herzog had a knack of visually milking his landscapes (often via impact-charged long takes) and the many dangerous natural elements within them to jack-up the themes on hand while throwing "nades" of oddness all up in there for good measure (like that boat in the tree...wtf)!

Now that I think of it, this bitter pill reminded me a bit of VALHALLA RISING in the sense that yes it had a story, but it went about it in such a surreal and unorthodox way that the whole came off as an eerie and somber audio/visual poem stamped on celluloid, as opposed to a more straight forward narrative-driven flick. Tag to all that unsettling hints of incest, Kinski’s riveting/dangerous performance owning the screen (the lad knows how to play to the camera like no other), a haunting score by German band Popol Vuh that amplified the moroseness on display, an occasional off-kilter sense of humor and an ending that packed quite a wallop and you get one hell of a unique film experience! It won’t be for everybody that’s for sure, but it should appeal to the more daring and open minded film lover.

If I had any complaints, it would be that when “action” kicked in, some of it was weak when it came to choreography; but hey this wasn’t RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2 over here; so I was able to forgive that shortcoming. At the end of the boat ride, Aguirre, The Wrath of God was an LSD laced trip to the jungle that took random pit stops to explore the themes of greed, obsession, delusion and utter madness. Hop on this raft and lets go to hell together!

GORE
We get a beheading, stabbings, corpses and random acts of violence. Not a gorefest but it had its moments,
T & A
We get a quick tit shot.
BOTTOM LINE
Francis Ford Coppola has said that Aguirre was an inspiration for Apocalypse Now and now that I've seen both films; I can totally see it. Aguirre, the Wrath of God was a crazy and dangerous production with a megalomaniac lead actor in Klaus Kinski. And that led to a crazy and dangerous movie with a megalomaniac anti-hero in Aguirre! This surreal excersie sported a genuine feel of dread, an odd sense of humor, the somber score hit home, the manner in which nature was captured was transfixing and the themes explored were gripping to say the least. Sure, the action scenes sometime faltered, but hey, what are you gonna do? Overall, I was happy to be introduced to this flick (by my pal Eric Red, thx bro), it has inspired me for a film project that I'm working on and I will definitely see it again!
BULL'S EYE
A flood that went down on set destroyed the rafts they were using. The rebuilding of the rafts was hence incorporated in the story.

Herzog was inspired to make this film after reading up on the true life figure: Lope de Aguirre.

Herzog wrote the script in 2 and a half days.
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