Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

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Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) is probably the director's narrative masterpiece. It is both a dark comedy on the hubris of colonialism and a harrowing survival tale set deep in the Peruvian rainforest. Aguirre is played by the crazed actor Klaus Kinski whose wild eyed stares and erratic behavior are captivating throughout the film. The jungle locations in the film immerse you in another world combined with the repetitive sounds of the rainforest and the ominous score by Popol Vuh. As Aguirre and his fellow conquistadors drift further down the Amazon river, the death toll begins to mount. The quest to find the golden city of El Dorado becomes hilariously absurd, and the laughter sticks in your throat as you are confronted with the hallucinatory reality of the situation. The film builds to a stunning climax of Aguirre alone with his delusions of ruling an empire.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God is a 1972 West German epic film written and directed by Werner Herzog. Klaus Kinski stars in the title role. The soundtrack was composed and performed by German progressive/Krautrock band Popol Vuh. The story follows the travels of Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre, who leads a group of conquistadores down the Orinoco and Amazon River in South America in search of the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. Using a minimalist story and dialogue, the film creates a vision of madness and folly, counterpointed by the lush but unforgiving Amazonian jungle. Although based loosely on what is known of the historical figure of Aguirre, the film's storyline is, as Herzog acknowledged years after the film's release, a work of imagination. Some of the people and situations may have been inspired by Gaspar de Carvajal's account of an earlier Amazonian expedition, although Carvajal was not on the historical voyage represented in the film. Other accounts state that the expedition went into the jungles but never returned to civilization.

Aguirre was the first of five collaborations between Herzog and the volatile Kinski. The director and the actor had differing views as to how the role should be played, and they clashed throughout filming; Kinski's tantrums terrorized both the crew and the local natives who were assisting the production. Shooting was entirely on location, and was fraught with difficulties. Filming took place in the Peruvian rainforest on the Amazon River during an arduous five-week period, shooting on tributaries of the Ucayali region. The cast and crew climbed mountains, cut through heavy vines to open routes to the various jungle locations, and rode treacherous river rapids on rafts built by natives.

Aguirre opened to widespread critical acclaim, and quickly developed a large international cult film following. It was given an extensive arthouse theatrical release in the United States in 1977, and remains one of the director's best-known films. Several critics have declared the film a masterpiece, and it has appeared on Time magazine's list of "All Time 100 Best Films". Aguirre's visual style and narrative elements had a strong influence on Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now. The film's reputation through the years has continued to grow. J. Hoberman has written that Aguirre "is not just a great movie but an essential one ... Herzog's third feature ... is both a landmark film and a magnificent social metaphor." Danny Peary wrote, "To see Aguirre for the first time is to discover a genuine masterpiece. It is overwhelming, spellbinding; at first dreamlike, and then hallucinatory." Roger Ebert has added it to his list of The Great Movies, and in a 2002 Sight & Sound poll of critics and filmmakers on the best films ever made, Ebert listed it in his top ten. In the same poll, critic Nigel Andrews and director Santosh Sivan also placed it in their top ten list. In 1999, Rolling Stone included the film on the magazine's "100 Maverick Movies of the Last 100 Years" list. Aguirre was included in Time Magazine's "All Time 100 Best Films", compiled by Richard Schickel and Richard Corliss. Entertainment Weekly named it the 46th greatest cult film ever made. The film was ranked #19 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.

(Summary from Wikipedia)