Werner HerzogAguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), 8/10

Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) not only has an extraordinary sense of individual feeling and adventure, as many great films must, but makes an important contribution to the criticism of mankind and his many faults. Raymond Williams’ study and perspective on culture in Keywords serves as an academic investigation into many of the same themes of culturalization, as is Aguirre’s subject matter that is explored in the context of intimate story. Kinski’s performance is as brilliantly mad as ever, you can see his derangement in a simple sustained glance, though all of the other performances are almost comically dwarfed in comparison. This matters little, however, as individual performances and personal characterization are not primary or even necessary for the story to effectively make its statements. There are many messages, and they are all powerfully manifested in separate yet overlapping interactions with not only groups of characters and individuals, but with their surroundings. As Herder suggested, "The very thought of a superior European culture is a blatant insult to the majesty of Nature". Scenes like the initial descent into the grand unknown, Guzmán’s gradual transition into royal barbarism and his regressive outbursts, the execution of the savages or even the blatant juxtaposition of the starving men against their gluttonous ruler are all markedly effective and remarkably forceful, even refined and fluid. The film’s aesthetic expressions are accentuated with a superbly effective backdrop of visceral sound, both in its powerful use of primal but personal nature and of the eerie, immediately infatuating soundtrack (from Popol Vuh) in moments of ruminative anticipation. Still, the narrative moves in an oddly jagged progression, and though the evolution of the story flows well, the individual moments are markedly hindered by odd passages of stoppage and sudden story breaks that feel dissociated with the grander narrative. The delivering of dialogue can also feel disjointed as with any dubbed film but does not hinder the presentation of theme in any substantial way. In short, other than questionable secondary acting performances and at times questionable or fantastical filming technique, Aguirre is a distinguished, supremely effective visual adaptation of a greatly pointed narrative.