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The Figaro cinema screening: Aguirre, the wrath of God and Klaus Kinski


Each month, in partnership with LaCinetek, we offer you a great classic or a rarity of the seventh art. A meeting inaugurated with Werner Herzog’s masterpiece to (re) discover on the platform as part of its theme of the month, dedicated to the Directors’ Fortnight, a parallel and yet essential selection of the Cannes Film Festival.

In Cannes, between the Palais des Festivals and the Salle de la Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, there is much more than 650 meters to cover on the Croisette. A world separates the official competition of the International Film Festival and the parallel selection, without jury or red carpet. The Fortnight celebrated its fiftieth edition in May 2018.

Discover here LaCinetek’s May selection dedicated to the Directors’ Fortnight.

Created in 1969 by the Society of Film Directors, it was born from the desire of filmmakers to introduce films and authors ignored by major international festivals. Directed by a young owner of a Lille film club, Pierre-Henri Deleau, who will remain General Delegate for the first thirty years, it has never ceased to reveal the big names of the seventh art, most of whom will return to Cannes in competition and win Golden Palm. The selection of the month proposed by LaCinetek attests to this. There is Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than paradise), Michael Haneke (71 fragments of a chronology of chance), the Dardenne brothers (The promise), Ken Loach (Family Life) or Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the wrath of God).

And if there is one name that illustrates this pool of talent that is parallel selection, particularly at its beginnings in the 1970s, it is that of Werner Herzog. Journalist Bruno Icher recalls this in his book Directors’ Fortnight, the young years 1967-1975 (Riveneuve editions): “With four films selected in four years (Dwarves also started small in 1970, Fata Morgana in 1971, The land of silence and darkness in 1972 and Aguirre, the wrath of God in 1973), Herzog found at the Fortnight an echo chamber of planetary scope as well as a second home, his visits to Cannes always being celebrated as the return of the prodigal son. “

“The agitated collaboration between the Bavarian filmmaker and his gargoyle-headed alter ego has everything of a devastating passion”

The German filmmaker, noticed from his first feature film, Signs of life, Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 1968, gained international recognition with Aguirre, the wrath of God. Taken from a chronicle of the conquest of the New World, filmed in the Amazonian foothills of the Andes mountain range, it stages the odyssey of conquistadors in search of Eldorado in the 16th century. Cinematographic poem, romantic hallucination, song of Christ gesture, all of this is true but would be nothing without the presence, at the center of this chimera of universal monarchy, of Klaus Kinski. Outstanding actor not to say dangerous madman, whom Herzog will direct in three other feature films after Aguirre : Nosferatu, ghost of the night (1978), Woyzeck (1978), Fitzcarraldo (1981) and Cobra Verde (1987). The agitated collaboration between the Bavarian filmmaker and his gargoyle-headed alter ego has everything a devastating passion. Herzog will recount this sadomasochistic relationship in 1999 in Intimate enemies.

Three quarters of the images in this documentary were shot in Peru, in this jungle where the apocalyptic filming ofAguirre then Fitzcarraldo. At first, the wild nature of the Amazon amazes Kinski, although, “He had a strange conception of it: he wanted it without mosquitoes and without rain”, Herzog specifies.

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One day, taking himself for his character, Klaus Kinski, sword in hand, rushes on extras and wounds one in the forehead. Everett / Bridgeman pictures

From the first night, Kinski leaves his tent and settles in the only hotel in the area. And things are only going to get worse. One day, taking himself for his character, Kinski, sword in hand, rushes on extras and wounds one in the forehead. Another, he’s packing his bags. “I knew he had already broken thirty or forty contracts, Herzog said. So I went to see him. I told him : ”The film takes precedence over our personal feelings. ” ” I’m leaving! ”, he replied. So I told him that I was going to get my gun and that before he had gone ten meters he would have eight bullets in the head. And that the ninth would be for me. Terrified, he started to want to call the police, but he had forgotten that the nearest station was 450 kilometers away… ”

After Kinski’s death in 1991, Herzog abandoned fiction to shoot only documentaries. He returned there a decade later but the flame was gone. As if, Kinski missing, his cinema had become depopulated.

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