Aguirre, the Wrath of God (NR) - 1972 - Runtime: 93 minutes
Starring: Klaus Kinski
Director: Werner Herzog
This is one of my cult classics movies that I was looking forward to. First, it has Werner Herzog, who now has claim to being a popular internet meme. But he's also a good director! He's done sooo many movies - of only a couple I've seen (Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World and Rescue Dawn) - and have really enjoyed his unique point of view. Second, I really enjoy movies about expeditions, particularly to find ancient civilizations of untold wealth (read The Lost City of Z and Pandora in the Congo if you haven't!). So even with the unheard of cast, I knew I was in for a treat. And while the movie wasn't particularly awesome, I found it nonetheless captivating.
The movie is based very loosely on a sixteenth century expedition to find El Dorado, the legendary city of gold down the Amazon river. The expedition is lead by Pizarro who, after struggling through the thick jungle, orders a smaller scouting group to go on ahead down the river on rafts to find what lies ahead. He puts Pedro de Ursúa in charge of the group and second-in-command is Lope de Aguirre. Well, of course the mission doesn't go exactly as planned and Aguirre sparks a mutiny and continues down the Amazon, all the while growing madder and losing most of his sanity.
It's a tale about greed and power and also sanity. There's a lot going on despite the minimalist plot and location. The movie takes place mainly on the raft as they drift endlessly through the jungle. It's a bit of Heart of Darkness in that when left to their own devices, these men will stoop to the lowest of the low. Corruption and insanity are the norm. It's a quick movie that is over before you know it and I really enjoyed the performance by Kinski - he's got a bit of madness in his eyes that makes you wonder. I'm torn between recommending this one or not - it's a great movie, but I really don't think it's an absolute must see. You have to like the subject matter and be in for a meandering movie that's more about the men on the raft than the actual journey. So I'd say rent it if you the subject matter at all intrigues you!
Rating: Rent It!