Plot: What’s it about?
After the Incan empire had been toppled, the Spanish conquistadors went in search of riches, to become rulers of these new lands they’d conquered. One such team of soldiers was led by Gonzalo Pizarro (Allejandro Repulles) and these folks want some serious riches, no matter what they might have to do to obtain them. His crew is forced to brave the treacherous Andes Mountains, which is hard enough alone, not to mention the Indians that have taken to hunting the men. But these Indians are nowhere to be seen, as if their arrows are being fired from thin air, which makes it hard to defend against them. But even with the restless natives and ravages of nature trying to stop them, the men push ahead in search of riches. As the trek wears on, the men begin to bicker amongst themselves, which causes even more problems. And as if all that wasn’t enough, now they’ve been greeted by Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), who has a few more screws loose than he will admit. Aguirre soon takes command of the men and despite almost certain death, plunges them deep into danger and the ravenous jungles.
If you ask me, all the film which combine the talents of actor Klaus Kinski and director Werner Herzog are worth a look, but Aguirre, The Wrath of God is perhaps their best effort. As much I like Cobra Verde, I think this film claims the place as their best mutual film and that is quite a compliment, as the two made some excellent movies together. They might not have always gotten along, but they knew how to make one hell of a memorable cinematic experience. I liken this film to Apocalypse Now, especially the role of Kinski and I am not alone in that line of thinking. This is a very emotional story that unfolds here, one that follows a man as he descends into utter madness. And since Werner Herzog is behind the camera, insanity has never looked so good and the visuals shine through at all times. There is a nice amount of action as well, which is good and these scenes are never forced, so the action fits into the film naturally. I recommend this film to all those interested, but this film will not be for everyone, as it is not a movie that lifts the spirits. But it is a powerful and worthwhile film in the end, so I think a rental or purchase is money well spent.
As I mentioned above, this film was directed by Werner Herzog and stars the volatile Klaus Kinski, which means it will be like no other film of this ilk. The stories of these two and their friendship/hatred cycle is well documented and as such, the films they produced have a sense of that within them. I am unsure what effect the relationship had in terms of changes to the film, but I think the films with Kinski are Herzog’s best work. They seem to have a raw power and passion that burns even after all the years, which few movies can claim. I like several of Herzog’s other films, but the ones with Kinski pack such an emotional punch that they seem to rise above the others. I think the same is true for Kinski as well, he made many other good movies, but these seem so much more powerful in the grand scheme of it all. I think Fitzcarraldo is their greatest work as a team, but Cobra Verde is a close second and almost as impressive in the end. Other films which feature Herzog and Kinski together include Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu The Vampyre, Woyzeck, and Cobra Verde. If you want to learn more about this strange and intriguing partnership, I recommend you check out Herzog’s film titled My Best Fiend. This documentary paints the entire picture of their relationship, which proves to be a complex and highly interesting piece of work.
Video: How does it look?
Aguirre, The Wrath of God is presented in a full frame transfer, which preserves the intended aspect ratio. This transfer is very, very clean and that makes a world of difference from previous editions, which were marred by grain and debris. So right off the start, this was the best looking version of this film I had seen, but it gets even better from there, I assure you. The colors look bold and even, especially the jungles hues and flesh tones seem natural also. I didn’t see any issues with the contrast either, as black levels were sharp and no visible detail loss is evident. A wonderful transfer and a vast improvement over existing editions, kudos to Anchor Bay on this one!
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes dual language tracks, with an English mono option and the original German track in Dolby Digital 5.1. Of course I chose the German track, but for this review’s sake I spun the English track and it sounds good as far as mono goes. So both are decent enough, but the German track is so much more powerful and rich, there’s really no comparison here. I heard no problems in the least with this mix, the dialogue is crystal clear and sound effect come across in distinct form. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround track in German and English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As usual for his film on DVD, Werner Herzog has recorded an audio commentary track, which offers a lot of insight into the film. I always enjoy his comments and this track proves to be more of the same, fans will want to give this one a spin right away. The disc also houses some talent files and the film’s theatrical trailer.