Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

A captivating examination of the insanity and arrogance of the human desire to conquer. Delusions of grandeur is an understatement!

Just as the characters descend further and further into the surreal madness emblematic of such endeavours, the viewer is subject to the bizarre meld between the impatience of the many banal moments, and the lunacy of the most active moments. The film truly is an experience, and by the time the stunning ending swings around, I really felt like I’d been on a journey too.

The film makes its intentions clear from the very first shot, where the cast is completely dwarfed by the natural landscape, but the psychological journey they go through is still thrilling, with Klaus Kinski’s excellent performance rising in intensity throughout.

The desire to dominate, to conquer, is such a innate part of human nature that it pervades through all sorts of institutions – the film shows the imperialism of an empire, the proselytism of a priest, even the most base example that is subjugating an enemy through violence. Yet, seemingly paradoxically, it is one of the more animalistic and base urges, ergo, removed from our “humanity” and enlightenment as conceptualised both in the time of the film and now. The film offers a glorious breakdown of just how insane and animalistic the lengths people go to in their pursuit of domination, in their greed, go. The ending is such a powerful visual statement directly comparing the humans of the film to their evolutionary forebears, the animals they act as if they’re so different from. All the gold, all the culture, all the language, none of it truly distinguishes man from animal when they act in such a way, when they’re consumed by the arrogance and madness of greed and domination.

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Such a unique and atmospheric experience. I give it four and a half monkeys, and a set of pipes.

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