Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Klaus Kinski

Last night I watched Mein Liebster Feind, Werner Herzog's documentary/tribute to his friend, the explosive, volatile and absolutely mesmerizing German actor Klaus Kinski, whom Herzog had worked with, and fought with, on five of his most famous movies, including Aguirre: The Wrath of God and the now legendary Fitzcarraldo. Perhaps because in Herzog's films he always plays a character who is either teetering on the edge of madness or who has whole-heartedly plunged into it I've always just assumed that Kinski himself was a sort of a madman. A genius, but a thoroughly diabolical one. And apparently, I was right. Kinski was mad: egomaniacal, conflicted and perhaps a shade delusional. Prone to raving fits and explosive, violent outbursts, Kinski was not so much an actor to be directed as one to be wrestled with. He could rant for hours, foaming at the mouth, over the smallest of artistic differences; he could become physically violent, lashing out at actors and extras he thought were performing poorly; he would, as a matter of course, threaten to walk off a project entirely. Herzog apparently had to actually threaten to shoot him in order to keep Kinski from walking out during the filming of Aguirre. But Kinski could also be an extremely courteous and gentle man, capable of moments of truly sublime beauty. Here are some videos of Kinski that I find simply fascinating. Unfortunately, the first two are in German but Kinski's real grandeur is his face and emotional volatility, which translates without subtitles just fine. The first one is a famous clip from Kinski's "Jesus Tour," a one man show in which he interprets Jesus and the Gospels as the ravings of a lunatic. This is perhaps not as blasphemous as it sounds; most of what Kinski is doing is establishment subversion rather than heresy. Still, some members of the audience didn't appreciate Kinski's take on Scripture. The second one is an interview he gave in 1971 that spiraled into him raving at the reporter. It's a long clip. Kinski starts to get extremely agitated at about the 6:00, if you don't want to watch the whole thing. The third is the final scene of Herzog's Mein Liebster Feind and shows the other, more gentle side of Kinski. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Nevis said...

Very interesting. I learned something this morning because before reading this post I had no idea who [Werner Herzog or Klaus Kinski] were.

Very interesting videos! Particularly liked the last one.