Based on Bruce Chatwin's The Viceroy of Ouidah, this features another of Herzog's doomed outcasts in an alien environment. A farmer-turned bandit in early 19th century Brazil, Cobra Verde (Kinski) is exiled to West Africa to gather slaves while fending off the murderous cohorts of the mad king of Dahomey. Here Herzog's taste for spectacular exotica comes to the fore with extended scenes of mass activity: the restoration of a slave-fortress, tribal processions, a 1,000-strong Amazon army in training, mile after mile of a human telegraph line. Though less apocalyptical than usual, the imagery is as lavish as ever, but the film is wrecked by an underwritten narrative. Certainly, Herzog fulfills his aim of portraying Africa as a cruel, highly civilised continent - the clichés are his own rather than those of conventional movie iconography - but the picture of colonialism is woefully one-dimensional. Finally, however, the film's greatest shortcoming is its inability to stir the emotions.
Cast and crew