On the eastern slopes of the Andes during the Spanish expedition , Gonzalo Pizarro urges his men to continue through the thick Amazon forests despite the dangers within the dark and humid jungle. The tale of Pizarro's venture begins with an ominous warning as it is revealed to the audience that the only surviving evidence of the expedition is a journal kept by Brother Gaspar de Carvajal, a monk who travels to spread the gospel of Christianity. This bleak foreshadowing induces an inching uneasiness into the mind of the audience. This is enhanced by further looming incidents such as native slaves dying like flies from simple colds and food shortage. The low supply of food leads to a decision to split the group where one group should return for provisions and the other should continue searching for a gold shimmering city. This tale then follows the ill-fated who continue the journey for the legendary city as they are drawn deeper into the cruel world of the Amazon. Deaths of several men forebode the grim future of the expedition, which the leadership wants to call off and return to the safety of civilization. However, Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), a high ranking soldier, commands a rise against the leadership based on a proud vision of greatness and worldly riches beyond imagination that drives him to thrust deeper into the unexplored rainforest. Aguirre's vision draws the expedition into a personal realm of madness and destruction, which leads to only one certain fate.
Aguirre: The Wrath of God has a lingering effect on the audience as the eerie atmosphere created by Herzog persists from the initial shot to the final scene. There are several components that generate this bizarre ambiance of the story such as cinematography, idiosyncrasies, mise-en-scene, and performances by the cast. The cinematography is simple and sometimes documentary-like, which produces a real feeling. This real feeling together with the uncanny knowledge of the unavoidable doom enhances the extraordinary atmosphere of the venture. The complete portrait of the character Aguirre by Klaus Kinski is nothing but spectacular. Herzog's choice of mise-en-scene is delicately chosen as all the items had to be transported by the expedition. Each item within each frame displays a significant symbolism such as the horse and raft, which adds new layers to the unnatural atmosphere. Lastly, the performances by the cast are outstanding as it is not the dialogue that drives the story forward, but the visual manifestation of their being that elevates the outlandish impression of each scene. When Herzog combined all the aspects of film-making in Aguirre: The Wrath of God he left the world a brilliantly eerie cinematic experience that will leave several notions in reflecting minds.