Tag Archives: south america

Aguirre, the Wrath of God – Review

11 Sep

One of the most iconic professional relationships in the history of film is that of Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. Herzog is a brilliant film maker who pushes the boundaries of cinema and has made a name for himself doing it. Kinski, on the other hand, was an absolute madman who threatened people on a daily basis and had manic explosions that makes the Vesuvius eruption seem like nothing. While the two men were constantly at odds with each other, it can’t be denied that they did some excellent work together. The first film they ever collaborated on is the 1972 film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Upon its release, it was a critical success and has been called a masterpiece of cult film making. That’s a lot to live up to, but this minimalist adventure into both the South American jungles and insanity lives up to the hype.

After conquering the Incan Empire, conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro (Alejandro Repullés) leads a group of his men and slaves down the Andes Mountains and into the jungle in search of the lost city of El Dorado. As they get deeper and deeper into the jungle, Pizarro decides to send a small party further downriver, led by Don Pedro de Ursúa (Ruy Guerra) and his second in command being the manipulative Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski). When Ursúa recommends going back to Pizarro’s camp after 7 days of searching, Aguirre decides that that this course of action is unacceptable and leads a mutiny against the leader and elects the slovenly nobleman Don Fernando de Guzmán (Peter Berling) to lead the group to El Dorado. Of course, Aguirre knows that Guzmán is a fool and uses this to take power over the party and to build a raft to sail deeper into the jungle that is crawling with native cannibals looking for food. As members of the party start being picked off one by one, Aguirre falls further into madness and becomes hungrier for power, and will stop at nothing to find El Dorado, even when the expedition becomes a hopeless tragedy.

Who better to tell this story than Werner Herzog? Well, I could actually think of a handful of people to make it before I thought of Herzog, but it’s excellent that he was the one to tackle it. The characters in this movie are all based on real people who actually did go looking for the mythical city of El Dorado, but it isn’t known for sure how they all met their demises. Herzog isn’t interested with fact in Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Instead, he’s interested in weaving a story full of deception, manipulation, and murder. While this all sounds very theatrical, this movie is anything but. Shot on location in South America, it would’ve been impossible to bring a film crew out that was necessary with the budget Herzog was working with. This made the film maker shoot scenes in whatever way he can which made for a very loose and almost documentary style. It’s a method that makes this film absolutely engrossing and it really worked at making me get immersed in the jungle environment these characters were trying to navigate. It’s a prime example of a low budget miracle.

This was a highly demanding movie for both the actors and the crew, so I imagine it wasn’t always easy getting the performance that was necessary, especially from you know who. Still, the performances in this movie feel very natural and ahead of their times in some ways. Herzog is an auteur film maker and his demand for his vision is evident with the stories that have been recorded from the set and the actual outcome of the movie. I do have to talk about Kinski’s performance since it’s one of the main reasons to even watch this film. He has a fire in his eyes and he captures the madness of Aguirre with perfection. He’s actually not in it as much as I thought he would be, especially since the movie is named after his character. He definitely is the main driving force behind the film, but he often times pulls the strings from offscreen. When he is onscreen, however, his acting is electrifying and you can see why Herzog chose to collaborate with him four more times after this despite the trouble he had.

This movie had the story to be an epic yet tragic adventure tale full of larger than life heroes and villains. Instead, Herzog went the much quieter route and it’s all the better for it. Most of the violence happens within the blink of an eye and most of the dialogue is spoken in a very uncinematic way. Much like everything else, the story doesn’t flow and move like a traditional film. Aguirre, the Wrath of God is a very slow movie that isn’t afraid to completely stop moving for a while and focus on the stability, both mental and physical, of the characters. If you’re looking for a swashbuckling action adventure film, Aguirre is bound to disappoint. This is a film that takes its time and forces you to stick with it.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God is an outstanding film through and through. It’s a subtle tale of madness that works so well because the storytelling is so quiet and unconventional. Herzog’s guerrilla style behind the camera also made the film seem all the more authentic. If anything, it’s worth a viewing just to see Kinski’s manic performance come to life before your very eyes. This isn’t a movie for everyone I don’t think, but it is a masterpiece of the cinematic arts and any brave lover of film needs to give it a go.

Final Grade: A

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Turistas – Review

15 Dec

I almost feel like what’s the point of reviewing this? Do I really have anything to say? No, at least nothing that’s already been said, but if I did that I wouldn’t really be doing my job as a reviewer. Pretty much, I feel like this movie is a missed opportunity. Here we have something that, with the proper execution, could have been really good. Instead I sat through an hour and a half of derivative and all around disappointing work.

Turistas

 

After a bus crash leaves a group of tourists stranded on a dirt road in Brazil, they decide to go to the nearby beach (quite convenient) for a day and drinking, swimming, and taking their clothes off. The next day, they awaken with all of their money and passports gone. Now, desperate to get home, they become involved with a psychotic doctor who makes his living harvesting the organs of tourists to sell to the hospitals of South America.

The whole idea of harvesting organs is really cool, and grounded in some sort of sick reality. There’s a scene where the audience gets the grotesque pleasure of seeing the doctor at work, but that’s really all the sickening scenes that this movie has to offer. Look at a contemporary horror film of this genre, Hostel. Lots of good build up with some extra gruesome satisfaction as a payoff. Turistas has a lot of boring build up with one memorable scene for all of the effort it took to sit through the mediocre dialogue of the ensemble of two dimensional characters.

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The actors are really nothing special. Josh Duhamel leads the cast with a performance that I can’t even remember. My eyes kept returning to Olivia Wilde because she’s Olivia Wilde. The only person that really kills it in this movie is Miguel Lunardi as Zamora, the doctor. He’s an evil son of a bitch with a great speech as he performs his operation. Why couldn’t there be more gut wrenching scenes like that? I don’t know what was more effective, the carving or the talking. There’s another cool scene of his involving a stick and an eye socket. The climax is also note worthy for its suspense. So far we have three good scenes out of the entire movie. Great…

The scenery is more interesting than the movie itself. I would occasionally tune out all of the monotonous talking and just look at the crystal clear waters and elegant jungles of Brazil. Too bad this isn’t a travel documentary of South America. It’s a horror movie! Shouldn’t I feel…scared? Well I didn’t. Instead I just wanted to go to South America and see all the sights. I feel like with this storyline, I shouldn’t want to get to Brazil in a hurry, but it really didn’t effect me at all.

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Turistas is a stupid movie with more than enough chances provided to be good. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much just a lame excuse to get a group of women to walk around in bikinis for half of a movie, add a scene or two of gore, and say “There, it’s a horror movie. Who wouldn’t want to watch this?” Well, me for starters. Then I’d say most of the people who were forced to sit through this derivative mess of a movie. Save yourself an hour and a half of your time, and don’t watch this. Instead watch a torture/gore horror film of this period that does it right, like Hostel.