Werner Herzog Klaus Kinski

01/03/2004
  |  Buy to Own: 01/03/2004
  |  648 min
Rated TBC by the BBFC

Synopsis

A collection of six films produced by the notorious partnership of German New Wave filmmaker Werner Herzog and his favourite leading man, Klaus Kinski. 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' (1973) is a study of megalomania set in 16th Century Peru. In the year 1560, a Spanish expedition crosses the Peruvian Sierras in search of the legendary Inca city of El Dorado. A power struggle within the group leads to its deputy (Kinski) seizing control in bloody fashion, his desire to set up his own kingdom threatening to destroy them all. Cast and crew apparently endured hardships comparable to those suffered by the screen explorers. 'Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht' (1979) is Herzog's remake of the classic 1921 'Nosferatu' directed by FW Murnau. The visually repellent vampire Nosferatu (Kinski) must feed on the blood of humans, and can only come out at night as to him sunlight is fatal. However, he longs for acceptance by the people he terrorizes. In 'Woyzeck' (1979), a poor army private (Kinski), haunted by nightmares of impending destruction, is forced to take part in a scientist's food deprivation experiments in order to support his wife (Eva Mattes) and child. However, he becomes convinced that she is having an affair with a drum major and stabs her to death. The film covers familiar Herzog territory, examining man's struggle with the world around him, as viewed through the eyes of an outsider figure abused by society and persecuted by nature. In 'Fitzcarraldo' (1982), Kinski plays Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an opera-loving entrepreneur who dreams of building an opera house in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. To finance his project he attempts to persuade the rubber business to extend into the jungle, and concocts a plan which involves moving his steamship over a mountain to a parallel waterway. In making his film of the visionary's adventures, Herzog famously refused to use special effects and insisted instead on actually transporting a steamship over the mountains. In 'Cobra Verde' (1987), Kinski plays Francisco Manoel da Silva, an enterprising young Brazilian bandit known as 'Cobra Verde' who, having impregnated all three daughters of his plantation-owning employer, is sent to the West African coast to drum up some business in the slave trade. In Africa, under the combined pressures of culture shock and extreme emotional isolation, he constructs an elaborate scheme to establish his own slave-trading monopoly. But the civil wars waged by the insane Leopard King come crashing down on Cobra Verde and his plans, and the film follows his tragic descent into madness and self-destruction. 'My Best Fiend' (2000) is an autobiographical documentary in which Herzog reflects on his long-standing and extremely volatile relationship with Kinski. The two men, who met in the 1950s while still in their teens, had a wildly creative working relationship - but came to physical and verbal blows with alarming frequency. Herzog claims to this day that Kinski (who died in 1991) was a madman, who went through a phase of believing he was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and once seriously injured a fellow actor by smashing him over the head with a sword. But he was also an intellectual and sensitive man, and the ambivalence that permeated Herzog and Kinski's friendship produced a string of highly original films. Using archive footage, interviews and personal accounts, this film portrays a fascinating - if a little unhinged - partnership between two creative geniuses.