Aguirre, the Wrath of God

NOTE:  As you may have noticed, my posts have ben rather sporadic lately.  I have been really busy, and frankly, sometimes I just don’t feel like writing.  I will continue to add posts in an attempt to get through the entire list, but don’t be surprised to see days without one.

Released:  1972

Cast:  Klaus Kinski, Helena Rojo, Ruy Guerra, Del Negro

SUMMARY:  In the year 1560, a large group of Spanish conquistadors and their native (Indian) slaves strike out in search of El Dorado, the legendary city of gold.  The conquistadors have recently participated in the overthrow of the Incan Empire; now, Gonzalo Pizarro leads the group through the Amazonian jungle.  By New Year’s Eve, the group has nearly run out of supplies.  They also have no information on what lies ahead of them, so Pizarro decides to send a smaller group out ahead, to act as a scout party.  The group is ordered to return within a week; failure to do so will cause the larger party to consider them lost.  Don Pedro de Ursua (Ruy Guerra) is named leader of the new group, with Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) as the second-in-command.  Among the others sent on the mission are Don Fernando de Guzman, a noble who will represent the Spanish royalty, and a monk named Gaspar de Carvajal (Del Negro), to convert any natives the group encounters.  Ursua brings along his mistress, Inex (Helena Rojo); Aguirre brings his teenage daughter Flores.  The men build four rafts to carry them down the river, but quickly run into trouble when one of them gets stuck in an eddy.  The raft is stuck overnight:  that night, the others hear gunfire.  In the morning, they discover that two of the men on the stranded raft have disappeared, while the others have all been killed.  Ursua decides to stop and bury the men, but Aguirre disagrees with this decision.  He entices one of the other men to fire the cannon at the stranded raft, sending the bodies into the river.  The man do spend the night on land, and in the morning find that all three remaining rafts have been carried away by the river.  Their allotted time has nearly run out, so Ursua decides to march back to Pizarro.  Again, Aguirre ignores orders.  He tells the men that El Dorado and all of its riches are waiting for them, and that several famous conquests (including Cortez’s capture of Mexico) started as ignored orders.  Aguirre’s argument  sways most of the men, and when Ursua orders his arrest, Aguirre shoots him and another loyalist.

While Ines cares for the wounded (but alive) Ursua, Aguirre gets the men to elect Don Guzman as the new Emperor of El Dorado, dethroning Philip II.  Ursua is immediately put on trial and found guilty, but Guzman pardons him.  Though Guzman is the leader in name, all power resides with Aguirre, who proves to be a brutal dictator.  He orders a new raft to be built, and the journey down the river continues.  Their supply woes continue:  while Guzman eats fish and vegetables foraged from the river banks, the men are given only a handful of corn each day.  Guzman also orders the only remaining horse to be pushed off the raft after it gets in his way too many times.  Shortly thereafter Guzman is found strangled near the outhouse.  Aguirre now openly takes command, and immediately has Ursua taken ashore and hanged.  After being attacked by mysterious arrows and darts aboard the raft, the group attacks a village on the shore.  More soldiers are killed by the seemingly invisible natives, and Ines simply walks into the jungle and does not return.  With the food now completely gone, the men begin to die of starvation and fever.  This causes hallucinations, and the men even think that the arrows they are hit with are imagined.  One by one, the survivors are felled by arrows, until Aguirre is the only one left alive.  A large group of monkeys finds their way onto the raft, and Aguirre begins ranting at them about how he will marry his own daughter, thereby ensuring a pure bloodline, and become ruler of the whole continent.

MY TAKE:  When I was in the fifth grade or so, I read Robinson Crusoe  It may have been because of my age, but I thought it was the most awful boring book I had ever read.  For something that sounded like such an adventure, it was a complete dud for me.  That’s the way I felt about this movie.  On the surface, it sounds exciting:  conquistadors, El Dorado, jungle, attacking natives, crazed leaders.  The reality is that NOTHING HAPPENED.  The man all laid about on a raft all the time while Aguirre strutted around and showed off his crazy eyes.  He calls himself the Wrath of God, but honestly, he’s not at all scary.  I didn’t get the tyrant aspect at all.  I was not impressed by the conquistadors, or their guides, as their fighting skills were terrible and they couldn’t manage to forage food out of the jungle or the river.  Director Werner Herzog apparently wrote a bare-bones script in just a few days, and it shows.  It’s colossally boring.  It’s also really irritating, because it was filmed in English but dubbed in German.  You can totally tell that the actors are speaking English, which bugged the crap out of me.  Bad script + bad acting + bad continuity = awful movie.

P.S.  Who the hell brings their teenage daughter on an expedition through the uncharted Amazonian jungle, where she’s one of only two females in a group of several hundred men?

RATING:  Horrible.



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