Thursday, February 10, 2011

Aguirre: The Wrath of God

Note: I will now be trying to use this space to log my thoughts about movies I receive via me and my lovely girlfriend's (elsa fellows) netflix account. I have not been very good at keeping up with this blog in the past so maybe this new, simple format will get me active on here again. My goal for writing is to keep my brain moving and the ideas flowing. Therefore do not expect perfection. I am totally uninterested in giving anyone an overview of the plot either. This is boring and you can find this info out easily enough.

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (my choice) is directed by Werner Herzog. This is a great film. Like most of his films I have seen it is very physical, a characteristic I love in film. What I mean by this is that it is shot in a way where you can feel the characters pain. This is often because the actors were themselves forced into grueling manual labor very similar to that of their characters. Aguirre: The Wrath of God is shot in the Amazon Rain Forest with a cast consisting of many natives to the area. Herzog puts a very long shot of the roaring amazon river near the beginning of the movie which wordlessly and perfectly illustrates the power of nature and the futility of man's attempts to tame it. I wept when I saw this scene. Michael Bay's best disaster scenes will never stand up to this film's terror and beauty because Michael Bay clearly does not have the fear and reverence for nature that Herzog has.

A small aspect of the movie that I am personally a huge fan of is use of live animals. The affect of actually seeing chickens in wire cages being carried through the endless jungle is surprisingly powerful. In one scene Klaus Kinski as Aguirre is holding a newborn sloth (the specific animal is a guess is it so small) and says with genuine wonderment "Here is an animal that sleeps its whole life away." This scene is amazing using a real newborn mammal, though I suspect using it in the film seriously jeopardized its life. It would be totally pointless to attempt with CGI. In another great scene Aguirre, viciously chases down and proceeds to snatch a live, small, orange monkey in an act of insane improvisation. He than shouts the movies signature line "If I, Aguirre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees... then the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the wrath of god." After this line he proceeds to hurl the monkey into the river.

This movie is visually stunning and intellectually exhausting. I don't end up getting too emotionally attached to any of the individual human characters themselves because to me it is established early on that the film has greater stories to tell. One of the most telling lines is said by a native to the Amazon who has been abused the whole movie says that even after all he has suffered he feels bad for Aguirre because he knows, after all, there is no escape from this jungle. There is no escape from the human condition either.

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