Werner Herzog’s mad masterpiece from 1972 still has its hallucinatory charge. Its star, Klaus Kinski, terrorised his fellow cast and crew, and in its own way ‘Aguirre’ has become cinema legend (director Herzog says the only way he could keep Kinski on the set after one outburst was to threaten to shoot them both). Made for buttons, it’s an awesome feat of filmmaking. We meet a doomed expedition of sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers and explorers in the rainforests of Peru hunting for the mythical of city of gold, El Dorado.
Kinski is Aguirre, a mutinous soldier who leads a troop of men downriver to annihilation. Aguirre (and Kinski, and Herzog?) is a man driven to insanity by megalomaniacal dreams of greatness. He’s got the haunted Christ-blue eyes of a saint but the savage leer of a monster who feasts on puppy’s hearts for breakfast. Watch it for Kinski and a succession of haunting images: a line of men winding down the sheer drop on the side of a mountain shrouded in mist; a boat surreally marooned on a tree; a raft of screeching monkeys.