Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1973) Herzog’s Masterpiece, Starring Klaus Kinski

Arguably one of German director Werner Herzog’s two or three greatest films, Aguirre, the Wrath of God is a visionary work, a serious exploration of obsession and descent into madness.
The film was one of the highlights of the New German Cinema of the 1970s, whose leaders included, in addition to Herzog, Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Set in 1560, the movie depicts the doomed Peruvian expedition headed by Spaniard Gonzales Pizarro in search of rumored gold in El Dorado. Dispatched by the explorer Pizarro, a band of Spaniards, alongside some natives, is sent through the Peruvian jungle to find El Dorado and claim it for Spain. Led by Don Pedro de Ursua (Ruy Guerra), with the brash Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) his right hand, the film begins with a breathtaking scene set during a treacherous fog, accompanied by Popol Vuh’s haunting score. Their ensuing journey involves group tensions, overt conflicts, attempts of rebellions and mutinies, and at the end, sheer madness and self-destruction.
But the movie is not about plot as about psychological group dynamics, radically shifting moods, and stirring imagery, courtesy of Herzog’s brilliant cinematographer and frequent collaborator, Thomas Mauch.
The great German actor Klaus Kinski (father of Nastasja) gives an extremely intense and haunting performance as Do Lope de Aguirre, blurring the line between playing a scripted role and just being, or rather reacting to the situations.
In this legendary inquiry, which has become a cult film in some critical circles, the narrative is inseparable from the making of the movie itself, documented in several non-fictional works. Shot on location, the film benefits from Herzog’s obsession with authenticity and attention to detail to the ultimately futile mission of the conquistadors.

The running time is only 90 minutes, but every second and shot count in this intensely dramatic yet also lyrical feature.

Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski)
Do Pedro de Ursua (Ruy Guerra)
Brother Gaspar de Carvajal (Del Negro)
Inez (Helena Rojo)
Flores (Cecilia Rivera)
Don Fernando de Guzman (Peter Berling)
Gonzales Pizarro (Alejandro Repulles)
Perucho (Daniel Ades)
Armando (Armando Polanha)
Okello (Edward Rolland)
Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes
Produced, written and directed by Werner Herzog
Camera: Thomas Mausch
Editing: Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus
Music: Popol Vuh
F/X: Juvenal Herrera, Miguel Vasquez
Running time: 90 Minutes