In 1982, Fitzcarraldo carried this ethos to new heights as Kinski portrayed a man who, in order to bring grand opera to the depths of Peru, has a huge steamship hauled over a mountainside using ropes, pulleys, and human endurance. The mad ambition of the film matched that of its hero as Herzog repeatedly placed crew and actors at risk of their lives. Nonetheless, the love-hate relationship between the director and his star carried them into one last film, the uneven but still remarkable Cobra Verde, about a Brazilian bandit sent to Africa to reopen the slave trade. After Kinski's death in 1991, Herzog made a documentary, My Best Fiend, about their decades of collaboration; the result rivals their previous work as a testament to human extremity. --Bret Fetzer
Aguirre, the Wrath of God has been compared to Shakespeare, the psychological fall from grace of Kinski's character as he leads this doomed expedition. From the opening frame, Herzog seems to foreshadow the impending failure of the journey, with the music and visual imagery. At one point, he actually points the camera at rapids for two full minutes. At first, we ask 'what?' but then we realize these rapids look less like flowing water, and more like bubbling, boiling waters. The water seems to be flowing right above hell's fires. Aguirre hopes and hopes that the city of gold is just a bit further down stream, but as he commands the expedition further, he falls further into insanity. Like Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Aguirre is the product of pure greed and power. His motivation is pure enough (riches), but his madness betrays him until it climaxes to monkeys. Aguirre is a difficult film to watch with its cynicism and ugly look, but it's a worthwhile experience.
Nosferatu is both a re-tread of Murneau's classic and an apocalyptic vision at the same time. At one point Jonathan, the lead, passes through the Transilvanian wilderness and we're treated to an endless shot of the moving sky. The feeling of dread Herzog creates here has never been matched. The whole film has an eerie quality, yet it's grounded into reality, almost as a documentary. When finally dracula has reached society, we're no longer in 'horror-movie' territory, but we watch the plague unfold into a full-fledged apocalypse. We get a feeling of how the bubonic plague really felt. It falls into a psychologically deranged state, as we realize just how quietly deadly the Nosferatu is. Society crumbles before our eyes, as people celebrate their demise on the streets while the rats slowly take over. If it sounds depressing, it is, but this cynicism is not without basis. You cannot blame Herzog, or Kinski, for turning the camera not on life's fiction, but on its' fact. Here, and in his their work, Herzog exposes the inconsistencies and darknesses of life. Not that these are new themes explored in film, other giants such as Kubrick and Polanski have made careers of it, but I'm not sure it's ever been done with this level of poetry.
Fitzcarraldo, I believe is his most satisfying. I'm not going to say it's his most optimistic, but as compared to Herzog's other work, it's his happiest and most triumphant. Fitzcarraldo is Kinski's most accessible character, because he, the dreamer is within all of us. Of course the greed of Aguirre is in all of us, as is the evil of Nosferatu, but the dreaming, ambitious state of Fitzcarraldo is something we should be proud of as humans. All logic dictates that his crazy plans will fail, but new ideas which do not leave us are there for a reason. In Fitz's case, building an opera in the middle of the jungle is his goal, and in order to finance this, he must reach an unreachable area of the jungle by dragging a ship over land. Fitz is not the kind who represses his ambitions, and that's all I will say about the story. The movie chronicles his journey and culminates into the most satisfying end of any Herzog film.
Woyzek, and Cobra Verde are also interesting works, but not as good as those three. Both are more akin to the dark sensibilities of Aguirre than the triumphant Fitzcarraldo. My Best Fiend, the documentary is essential for all fans, as the insight between the two's relationship is interesting. I also recommend Herzog's Stroszek and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (both starring Bruno S., whom I believe is just as effective in those works as Kinski is in these). Werner Herzog actually recorded a commentary for all the movies in this set, and they're all worthwhile.
The bottom line is, the films by modern standards are very weird, and European. They are slower paced as well, but they're classics for a reason. The psychology of the characters, the intensity of Kinski, the music of Popol Vuh, and the poetry of the cinematography are all in a cinematic top form.
Initially, I actually didn't enjoy Herzog's films. The films bubbled in my mind over time, and I couldn't ignore the impact. Soon I had to watch them again. I became an instant fan.
"It is almost impossible to imagine Kinski without Herzog; reflect that this `unforgettable' actor made more than 170 films for other directors--and we can hardly remember a one."
Wherever their individual paths took them, this box set stands as a monument to the magic between them. Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog together created films of extraordinary imagery, significant depth, and possessed artistry of the highest caliber. Included in this box set are the five films they did together: "Aguirre", "Nosferatu", "Woyzeck", "Fitcarraldo", and "Cobra Verde". Also included is one of the most fascinating documentaries about filmmakers and filmmaking ever, "My Best Fiend", Herzog's love/hate letter about his relationship with the volatile actor. Each work is unique in scope, vision, theme and performance. If the documentary explains why no director other than Herzog worked with Kinski more than once, their five films together amply demonstrate why Kinski never lacked for work. His on-screen presence is unparalleled and his performances perfectly measured for each role. The DVD set is a repackaging of their prior individual releases, containing the same extras. All films are presented in their original aspect ratio.
In summing up the sheer value of this set, one should consider the sublime effect of "My Best Fiend". In chronicling his relationship with Kinski, Herzog inadvertently shows how he was equally a figure who straddled the line between genius and madman during their productions. Although they gave each other their worst, they also brought out the best in the other. It is as palpable a symbiotic relationship as you will ever see between two human beings, and it can be witnessed on every frame of these five films. As Herzog said to Roger Ebert when describing his first encounter with Kinski as a youth,
"At that moment I knew it was my destiny to make films, and his to act in them.''
This set is a tribute to that revelation, and a must for anyone who savors the artistry of filmmaking.
Four/five films are exceptional, and the last COBRA VERDE is still worth every minute after viewing the BEST FIEND documentary in the set. Kinski was so exhausted (spiritually) after playing the part that I don't believe he ever acted in a movie again.
While both made other films apart from each other, these joint-adventures bring out each of their purity. Taken as a whole, the combination is one of the greats in cinema or any other arts (like Bernstein and Copland). Provides an amazing and unique view of the human endeavor. You'll never forget it.
This DVD-set can't be with region 1 code, because my DVD-player is with region code 2 and plays this DVD-set complete. Read more