Saturday, May 28, 2011

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes

Klaus Kinski had to play only himself; but it is the way that Herzog restrains himself in his critique of the West’s lust for power and riches, not going overboard and yet being to the point, that defines the astonishing film Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (int’l title: Aguirre, the Wrath of God). And it is the music of the film that gives that elemental touch to the film, when man is at war with nature: nature not only of the Amazon but also nature within, where man makes a slave of himself in pursuit of mastery over everything and everyone. Power brings with it the subjugation to the oppressed: something unfinishedly said in Orwell’s “Shooting an elephant” and more refinedly in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. For when you establish a power over someone’s body and wealth, his will and land, you tie yourself up within the realm that that power gives you; the more vast the reach, probably the wider is the radius of your tether, and yet tied you remain. And sometimes like a hurt animal ready to bite, as Aguirre (Kinski), mad but ready to pierce every envelope, and madder for he has the intelligence to feel that this was not a prison worthy to broken, a fort worthy to be taken; gold means nothing, for fame and power are absolute to him; and yet, if he had attained that fame and power, would he have finally felt satisfied? Or, like Ashoka, been driven on to that eternal lust of repentance and God?

Werner Herzog would have been the right man to make a film on Ashoka, for here he leaves the business unfinished; the final realization, that the powerful is the most powerless, is here only as the apparent truth, but what about the implied truth, when even the senses say otherwise? But given the limited scope of the film, he does marvellously: the way he only touches upon the aspect of incest since the start of the film; the manner in which he handles the pristine beauty of the landscape without letting it be the central element of the film; and how he handles, sparingly, Kinski himself. Rather than any antics or rhetoric, it is Kinski’s burning, blue eyes that bespeak the maniac in him, the man who is not the average but who has risen to only so far as to despise the others, not more above. A bully besotted with himself.