Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
Reviewed by Nov 23rd, 2009

This is one of those movies I was bored with for the first half of the first viewing, then I got hooked on it and watched it repeatedly, and decided it gets better with each viewing. This is the largely-speculative story of a bunch of conquistadors into the jungle in the search for El Dorado. Not prepared for the jungle, the group have carriages and horses and canons, things that don’t easily lend themselves to moving quickly through the dense vegetation. Gonzalo Pizarro, the leader, decides to send off a smaller party downstream, whom he instructs to return within 2 weeks or they will give up on them. This group includes the marvelously insane Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), his daughter, a noblewoman who looks completely out of place with her fancy clothes in the jungle, and an irreverent monk, among others.

After some hardship and drifting downstream on rafts, Aguirre decides they should forget the group and take all the glory for themselves. This doesn’t sit well with the appointed leader, but Aguirre takes care of that by shooting him. They appoint a well-fed nobleman as their “emperor,” and he is promptly off in his own fantasy world, basking in illusions of grandeur.

The struggle between the conquistadors and nature, and among themselves, plays out masterfully and in a sort of pseudo-documentary style. The film was shot on location and the story of the filming (listen to the commentary or watch My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski) is at least as good as the film itself. The poor cast and crew really were put through terrible drama and hardship during the filming. There is some very good social and religious commentary here, as well as workings of groups of people under stress and in adverse conditions. Great movie, filmed well, great acting.

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