Sunday, May 1, 2011

Recently watched movies

Aguirre: The Wrath of God.

This is a film from Herzog's early career. Here is the setting. The time is the 1500's; the place is the east slope of the Andes falling into the Amazon basin; the characters are the Spanish conquistadors; and the story is a fictionalized account of a trek into the wild Amazon jungle seeking to find riches at the lost city of gold, El Dorado. The story is modeled after Heart of Darkness. Coppola did his own version of Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now about seven years later. He included several homage scenes to Aguirre. There is one area of sharp contrast between the two movies, and that is their budgets. Apocalyse cost 100 times more to make than Aguirre. Both are definitely recommended!

Several of the filmed sequences in the movie seem very dangerous. Here are two examples. First, the opening sequence where they're hiking down a steep trail, and the vantage point of the camera is somehow backed off enough to show the 60 degree (or steeper?) slope. That is compounded by carrying cannons and carrying sedan chairs- just fraught with danger. Jessica and Jon recently hiked the Incan trail- maybe they can add their perspective. That first scene is immediately followed by the rafting scenes through raging rapids with rafts made from 5" trees lashed together. That looked like the actors were in real, not potential, danger. I have to say, that the costumes stayed remarkably clean throughout the filming. I wonder how that was accomplished. Staying so clean appeared a bit incongruous with how "out of their element" the invaders were, as if they were untouched by the wilderness.

Here are few screenshots:

The finale shows Aguirre (Kinski) standing alone. In my mind, this was an echo of the last man standing, like Hitler continuing to plan the continuing glories of the Third Reich even though Berlin has been destroyed around him. There is also an appropriate quote from Hugo's Les Miserables about following Ceasar, Charlamagne, and Napoleon for glory, but end up losing everything instead. I think it applies here as well- I may look for it later.

Here is Roger Ebert's review.


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