17 of 1001 Movies: Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

In mid- 16th century South America, after overthrowing the Incan empire, Gonzalo Pizzaro leads his army of conquistadors in search of El Dorado. His soldiers end up battling many obstacles along the way including Indians, starvation, the wild, and their own mistrust of each other. Aguirre at some point begins working with these tough conditions to navigate the army in his crazed attempt rule El Dorado. Instead his delusions leads them into disaster.

My Thoughts
In my first German film experience I wasn’t sure I would like this or not. I liked the setting, but I wasn’t sure the story would be for me. I don’t find myself taking it up on myself to watch movies about battles very often, but I’m glad I had the chance to view this one. It is very interesting, and you find yourself watching without even realizing how long you have been viewing the movie. Aguirre starts out as a character you would not even notice, but as the movie progresses his role builds into something insane.

Werner Herzog brings together a compelling story of how one man takes over everyone in his reign to madness. Klaus Kinski was brilliant in his role as Aguirre. I truly was scared for anyone who was in his path because he was going to do whatever it took to rule El Dorado once he found it, and make it his kingdom.  It’s weird how the actor is able to balance shadowing this character in the beginning, and just bringing out his full craziness at the end. I also really sympathized with the other characters. Helena Rojo as Inez was very moving. You could feel her love for her overthrown husband of the conquistadors. I also was scared for her since she is a woman in an environment filled with men. None of these men could have empathized with her fears, and struggles in the middle of a jungle.

There are some things I kept noticing throughout the film though, and one was how Herzog centered shots. This may be his style, but I felt the odd shoulder angles left way too much space above the characters heads and it distracted me. I felt like the shots could have been better angled to be more interesting than they were.  There were other great scenes though, like the opening when you are seeing the full view of the mountain they are scaling. The South American landscape worked wonders for them to film in.

Overall, this film is a masterpiece. It will keep you watching from beginning to end. My biggest recommendation is that before you turn on watching you might want to switch it to the original language it is filmed in, which is American. They later dubbed it in German, but I could tell it was dubbed, and I would have watched it in English had I known the option was available.

Rating 4 of 5.

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