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AGUIRRE, WRATH OF GOD
1972 - Werner Herog
Germany / Peru / Mexico
108
Opening Shot

The opening shot of Aguirre Wrath of God is a stunning one as Werner Herzog literally takes us from the clouds above directly into a bending path through a mountain where we see a large group of soldier, woman, and animals. This is a masterfully haunting and absorbing opening sequence that I would rate among the very best of film history.

The Film

Werner Herzog's Aguirre, The Wrath of God is so perfectly structured you can almost feel the power of the film pulling you in (much in the way Andrei Tarkovsky's epic masterpiece Andrei Rublev does). It's a powerful film that looks and feels real, but yet Herzog also creates this fascinating and haunting other world. Klaus Kinski is incredible as Aguirre. His performance is effortless despite his character being so intense. The film is definitive Herzog in his themes of obsession and madness (of man and of nature). The camera work (as well as the hypnotic music) of the film creates the haunting atmosphere of film, and further heightens Herzog's own poetic obsession with the mysteriousness of nature. Aguirre Wrath of God is a truly unique, and haunting film that will remain unforgettable from the brilliant opening shot to it's powerful finale that give this film equal lyrical grace, artistic beauty, and awe-inspiring mystery.

The Filmmaker

German filmmaker Werner Herzog's career consists of both fiction and documentary films. One of the fascinating aspects and evidence of Herzog as an auteur is that all his films share similarities in defining Herzog as a filmmaker. This similarity is mostly captured through imagery but there is a mysterious and poetic emotional attachment as well. In all his films (documentaries or fictional) Herzog relies on his poetic and atmospheric sense of visual imagery, which is captured through sweeping camera movement through landscapes, haunting colors, hypnotic pacing, and concentrated stillness. It is this atmospheric sense that makes each of his films stapled with his trademark signature as a filmmaker. One of the critical portions of his trademark is the mysterious locations of his films. Like his good friend Terrence Malick, Herzog uses ambient and exotic music, natural sounds, and sudden silences along with the visual environments of the atmosphere. This creates a cinematic poem and a film experience. Among the most evident themes of Herzog's films is that of human obsession or madness, and the chaos of nature. Almost as a parallel to Herzog himself perhaps, the leading characters of his films are often ambitious and determined characters that are driven by destiny or personal desire, but whom are ultimately doomed to an ironic and inevitable conclusion. These characters and themes exist throughout each of his films, but it is captured best in his greatest and most definitive masterpieces: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). Both of these films starred Klaus Kinski, an eccentric actor that very few could ever work for. He had a love/hate working relationship with the equally eccentric Herzog. Together they worked on five films over a 15 year span, conflicting many times before finally separating after Cobra Verde in 1987. Their working relationship was documented in Herzog's own 1999 film My Best Fiend. Herzog continues to make films today and most recently earned praise for his haunting documentary masterpiece Grizzly Man, which again recaptured Herzog's quintessential themes of obsession and the chaos of nature.

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