Aguierre: The Wrath of God


Many years ago, when I had a TV, when I had full cable, and I had time to watch IFC, I caught the Werner Herzog documentary “My Favorite Fiend” . In it, Herzog described his collaborations with the magnetic, megalomaniacal, intense, and strange German / Polish actor: Klaus Kinski.

I’d seen Herzog’s Nosferatu with Kinski as the vampire, and that was interesting, but the film that really piqued my interest was Aguierre: The Wrath of God (der Zorn Gottes).

Kinski plays the fortune and conquest-obsessed Aguierre who undermines an ofshoot of explorers from Pizarro’s main legion. As they lose men to trechary, accidents, Indian attack, and the jungle. Kinski’s simian-like Aguierre broods about their raft that makes its way into the deepest depths of the South American jungle. One would not be far wrong to see certain ties to “Apocalypse Now” or other “evil at the end of the river” stories like “She” or “The Heart of Darkness”.

What I love about Herzog movies is the unapologetically bad way they are dubbed. The movies usually let the light and the scenery speak for themselves (for volumes, Herzog is unafraid to let a camera’s film just run). The dialog is short and snippy (Germans playing Spaniards can’t quite bring themselves to be as loquacious as their southern continent-mates) with some real howlers in the dialog. Here are some of my favorites.

(This is totally deadpan)

Aguierre: What are they [some natives on shore] yelling? Native: Flesh, flesh, flesh is floating by.

Aguierre: I am the great traitor. There can be none greater. Whoever thinks about deserting will be cut into 198 pieces. And then trampled upon until you can paint the walls with him. Whoever eats one grain too many or drinks one drop of water too much will be locked up for 155 days. If I, Aguierre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees, the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the Wrath of God!. The earth I walk upon sees me and quakes! But whoever follows me and the river, will win untold riches. But whoever deserts…

Man Speared by Arrows: These long arrows are getting fashionable (it had been remarked earlier that the natives assassinating the population were using short arrows)

Slave: (Hallucinating, Deranged) That is no ship. That is no forest. (is hit by arrow in leg, doesn’t move) That is no arrow […this is kind of zen isn’t it? - sgh]. We just imagine the arrows, because we fear them. Monk: The arrow cannot harm me. That is not rain.