The Emporor of Monkeys

Kinski vs. Nature, Chapter I

How to explain Klaus Kinski (1926–1991) to Americans unfamiliar with the late German actor? Think of him as the Teutonic Dennis Hopper—only crazier. He’s probably best known for Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1973), about a fanatical Spanish conquistador running amok in virgin South America. In other words, it’s the role Kinski was born to play. Obsessed with gold, ruthless with his men, contemptuous of the natives, oblivious to the grandeur of Peru and the Amazon basin, Aguirre is like the evil counterpart to Lewis and Clark—discovery and pillaging are synonymous for him; seeing is stealing. But, politics aside, it’s also a beautiful travelogue. There’s an amazing shot as Aguirre and his party march through the mists alongside Machu Picchu, which suddenly reveals itself as the tantalizing dream that motivates, and destroys, Kinski’s character. Metro.

Wed., Nov. 7, 7 & 9 p.m., 2007

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