Aguirre, the Wrath of God

The title of this movie scared me a little, which set me up nicely for the bizarre, psychologically terrifying, and brilliant Aguirre, the Wrath of God by Werner Herzog. Cast in the lead role as the Spanish Conquistador: the actor who most resembles a Nordic God, Klaus Kinski. Yes, a Nordic God is a Spanish Conquistador – believe me, it fits seamlessly.

In this movie Herzog takes the concept of Italian Realism out to the bleeding edge: cast non-professional actors as themselves and put them into realistic situations. Except in this case, take regular everyday people and put them into life-threatening situations that are actually and literally life-threatening. You both fear for the characters in the movie, and for the real people being filmed. The actors must have been praying that Herzog would end their character’s life sooner rather than later so they could go home. But, no. For the most part he didn’t. And since Herzog was working out the details of the film during the filming, the process of making the film was as much fun as taking an endless trip down the Amazon – while being pursued by unfriendly natives.

The end result is a great movie. The photography, the way the plot unwinds, the characters – absolutely excellent in every respect. Should you see it? It is similar in a general way to Apocalypse Now, but it is more terrifying because it seems more realistic – even though it is more bizarre. If that makes you want to rent a copy of this: this is your film.

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