Monday, June 29, 2009

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes

I walked into Muse Music tonight at roughly 2 minutes before 10pm, expecting to be greeted by a crowd of "indie" film go-ers, excited for a screening. No, was the case. I sat down on one of the few couches in the Muse performance room, as I listened and watched aspiring musicians on "open-mic" night. As the performance cleared out and the room emptied, I sat alone in the near dark, wondering why there was a red, neon "PEOPLE" sign on the adjacent wall. 'The Muse' owner walked in and I had a chat with him about film night. I asked him what film would be shown and he handed me a case, with a film entitled:

Aguirre, The Wrath of God

I was surprised to see that it was written and directed by 
Werner Herzog. It was in German. I gave myself an inner 'high-five' and continued making small talk with the late-arriving patrons. Eventually, all neon and artificial lights were turned off, and the film began.

The script was quietly comedic, the editing was invisible, and the cinematography was 'in-your face'. In fact, the film won awards at two different festivals for its genius of cinematography. The film began with a caravan of Spanish treasure-seeking soldiers/slaves/noblemen hiking down a mountain out of the clouds. There were no film tricks, and no light loads borne by any of the cast. I felt like Herzog really captured reality for the traveling party. There were no dramatic pauses, no focus on the individual. There were long shots, long sequences of the group getting through mud, or just floating slowing down the river on a raft. He was not afraid to let the camera run. It caused such tension throughout the film.

The story was of a mutinous commanding officer, whose only desire was to reach the city of El Dorado. The story was told from the journal of the catholic priest who was aboard the convoy. I must admit, the first 35 minutes of so of the film are a blur for me, because the lady with the dreadlocks sitting next to me let her child abuse me as if I were a jungle gym. It all adds to the atmosphere. The film never left you with a happy, uplifting sort of feeling, but it did drag feelings and echoes of the old 'human nature' question out. I don't suppose there was any intended moral for Herzog, I felt like he was trying to present the film to be as true to reality as possible...and I feel like he succeeded. I did not walk out of the Muse at 11:45pm feeling as if I had been in another world for over the hour and a half I spent there, I felt as if i had experienced a little piece of history. There were no cross cuts to sub-plot among sub-plot, or jumps from the present to the past or distant future. All the action in the film was semi-continuous, even as sometimes week seem to slip by without our noticing. The ending was great. It left the deliriously greedy commanding officer on the raft, with monkeys everywhere, and his ranks dead from hunger and indians. He stood, as delirious as he ever was, expecting to overcome the world. 

I don't think this film is a 'must have' or even really a 'must see', but it was well done.
The best part of the night, still (aside from hearing a whole movie worth of german), was walking out of Muse at nearly midnight and having the street to myself as I walked to my car. 


  1. Hey, that's great that the movie was a good one. I thought about going, but I had to get up early this morning, so it was a no go for me. Also, it did look like perhaps more of a depressing film than what I was in the mood for. That's really interesting though, that the director included long shots of things like floating down the river. How exactly did that add tension to the film? I'm intrigued.

  2. Very interesting. So the entire movie was in German? Sweet. I like movies that are realistic. I think everything now is so tailored to fit everyone's interest that we lose the realism in things. Also, films that focus on the "art" of cinematography really interest me. I love looking at all the elements that bring a movie together.