It's typical Herzog, 10% history and 90% fantasy. He tries to improve on history by making it more spectacular than the real thing. I know I said that about Fitzcarraldo also. Wikipedia is good on the real background vs film in both cases.
This is a brilliantly spectacular movie, shot on a borrowed camera (without permission), in difficult mountain and jungle terrain for a ridiculously small amount of money. The sight of 400 people, some dressed in armour, some chained as slaves, and accompanied by horses and cannons descending the spectacularly steep mountain path of Huayna Picchu, is one of the most spectacular opening scenes in all of film making (if you exclude CGI). Having been there, I have some idea of just how difficult that was. To be fair you don't actually see the horses or cannon on the most difficult part of the path, but even so....
It stars Klaus Kinski as Aguirre, who apparently really did have the nerve to try to overthrow the rule in Peru of the King of Spain. Kinski was himself a dangerous man, and is ideally cast as a fanatic who persists to the bitter end against all obstacles, all disasters, and all common sense. Much the same could be said of the director, Herzog, himself.
As others have commented, the technical quality is first class, and this 1972 film does not show its age.
It's dubbed in English. If you are fortunate enough to speak German, so much the better as you have a choice to use the original dialogue.
Well beyond my most optimistic expectations; memory a little hazy, but the A/V quality probably better than the print I saw in theatre 40-odd years ago; beautiful restoration; my humble thanks to BFI for giving this magnificent classic the treatment it deserves.
It definitely draws you into their world , but it was so bleak , and I felt it really didn't explore the megalomania very well at all , kind of felt like " There's 90 min. of my life I won't get back " Don't quite get the glowing reviews , but that's an opinion .
This is quite simply, one of the best films ever made! Werner Herzog made 5 films with Klaus Kinski, and although they are all worthwhile, this is easily the best. Herzog admits that he has created a fantasy, although many people think that this film is based on fact. We follow a group of Spaniards as they travel up river in South America, searching for El Dorado, the lost city of gold. Klaus Kinski is Aguirre, and he exerts a malefic influence over the group. He plays off one against the other as he descends into madness, and we follow their journey into the heart of darkness. One by one the group succumb to the elements, kill each other, and are killed by the indigenous natives. Eventually Aguirre is left alone on the raft, completely insane and comparing himself to God.
The scenery is stunning, the acting and direction are superb, and Klaus Kinski has never been better. Also, this dvd has many special features. There are some early short films by Herzog, plus a longer effort which includes a directors commentary. The commentary on the main feature is superb, as Herzog gives us an insight into his motivations for making the film as well as the challenge of directing Kinski, who was a bone fide fruitcake!
All in all, this film is an unmissable classic and my only regret is that I never saw it on the big screen. Ignore it at your peril!
Drawing heavily on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, this lurid, hypnotic slab of new wave German cinema, is undoubtedly director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski’s finest collaboration and serves as the perfect example of the fraught relationship between director and leading man. On the surface it can be interpreted as a straightforward historical drama, documenting the efforts of a group of 16th century conquistadors trudging through the jungle in search of a fabled city of gold.
It’s here that the veneer of civilization is torn down, as the group, exemplified by Kinski’s descent into madness, tears itself apart in an orgy of greed and violence, all the while hemmed in by the eerie isolation of an encroaching jungle. The film also enters into another multi-dynamic phase, as a raving, frothing, Kinski, descends into megalomania, seeking to create a racially pure new world, damning all around him who do not conform to his vision of ‘utopia.’ This allegory of the last days of the Third Reich being played out in the heart of the Amazon is deftly handled by Herzog and only adds to the complexity of this thoughtful piece of cinema.
Absolutely pristine transfer to Blu-ray. Would have loved a widescreen presentation, but the original aspect ratio of 1.33: 1 is the way it was intended. Menu navigation seems a little clumsy, but overall, kudos to BFI.