Home > Uncategorized > Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972)

Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972)

Aguirre: the Wrath of God, is a 1972 West German film directed, written, and produced by Werner Herzog.  This film stars Klaus Kinski, Ruy Guerro, and Helena Rojo.  Aguirre: the Wrath of God is about a group of Spanish conquistadors led by Gonzalo Pizarro in the Amazonian jungle searching for El Dorado.  The beginning scene(s) comprise of Pizarro sending Don Pedro de Ursua with Don Lope de Aguirre on a trip down a river.  Pizarro’s orders are to return within one week, or else the group will be considered lost.  This opening scene sets the stage for a rather violent series of events as the story progresses.

Aguirre is an interesting film in that it encompasses many thematic elements into its plot and imagery.  One of the big thematic elements seen was the contradictory roles of Ursua and Aguirre.  Ursua is a strong leader who is extremely loyal to the Spanish crown and plans to follow his orders given by Pizarro.  Aguirre, on the other hand, plans on a mutiny of sorts and abandons the orders given by Pizarro.  Another broader thematic element used was how there was such a contrast of characters between the Spaniards and their slaves.

While the conquistadors are traveling down the river, the viewer realizes the change in setting.  The audience notices that there are no longer any mountains, but rather low jungle lands.  This represents the idea that the group had its high point at the beginning and simply went downhill from there.  In the beginning of the film, Aguirre is somewhat relaxed but hides his craziness to an extent.  As the story progresses, Aguirre changes into a madman craving power and control over not only the group, but over the “empire.”  One interesting interjection seen in the film is how the character of Ursua’s mistress, Inez, exclaims the problems when the other men will not speak out. This strength seen through Inez represents that she is not bound to the same ridicule as the soldiers, but she basically preaches to conquistadors who will not listen.

The storyline to the film is quite interesting and stimulating.  The actual filming in South America added to the flavor of the script.   The jungle setting with the costumes worn by the actors was significant because the actors played in the likeness of what the conquistadors would have appeared some five hundred years ago.   Another key feature that the plot included was how attention-grabbing the inner fighting between two groups of individuals like Ursua and Aguirre.

The camera’s positioning such as far shot’s, close-up’s, extended focus on certain landscape feature’s or person’s all mingled well with the script.  One of the first impressions that a viewer notices as he/she is viewing the film is that the cinematography angles bode well with how the director and cinematographer wants the audience to view a certain scene.  For example, the close-up shots were meant to show a certain state of being or emotion in a character, whereas a distant shot of the flowing river adds to the idea that the river will be very hard to navigate and further portrays the problems the characters are bound to encounter.   Overall, Aguirre: the Wrath of God is a visually invigorating film with its jungle atmosphere which helps develop the plots emotion of madness into something visual with its excellent cinematography and believable plot.

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