Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Director: Werner Herzog
West Germany / 1972 / 95 min
In German with English subtitles
The first collaboration between Herzog and Klaus Kinski perfectly cast the notoriously unhinged actor as the even more unhinged 16th-century conquistador Don Lope de Aguirre—whose nickname was indeed “El Loco” or “The Madman”—as he embarks on his final mission: a frantic search for El Dorado, the mythical South American city of gold that was the source of so many lost dreams. Aguirre takes control over a Spanish expedition, leading the crew, and his young daughter, down the Amazon on a slow descent into hell, accompanied by the haunting, ambient score by Popol Vuh, the German collective that contributed to the soundtracks of many Herzog films to come. Perhaps the ultimate of the director’s portraits of madness and his seamless weaving of fact into fiction (his version of Aguirre is mostly created), Aguirre, the Wrath of God is widely considered to be Herzog’s masterpiece.
Restoration courtesy of Shout! Factory and the American Genre Film Archive.