German filmmaker Werner Herzog isn’t a man who can be pigeon-holed. He doesn’t stick to just one thing. In the world of film making, he seems to have tried it all. If Roger Ebert is to be believed, Herzog has done it rather successfully, too. Herzog makes films: big films, small films, long films, short films, documentary films, films that are not documentaries. He’s one of the German world of film’s most important filmmakers but he isn’t a strictly “German” filmmaker, as his films aren’t strictly in the German language. For this month’s German film feature, let’s focus on three of Herzog’s films that are in German and, coincidentally, all star German actor Klaus Kinski.
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht
The 1922 film Nosferatu by F. W. Murnau is considered one of the great films not just in German cinema but in all early cinema. This film from 1979 by Herzog is a well regarded remake of the classic horror film with Klaus Kinski starring as Count Dracula.
Set in Peru, Fitzcarraldo focuses on a man named Fitzcarraldo (portrayed by Kinski) who dreams of bringing the opera to the rough world of the Amazon. After several attempts at starting businesses, his girlfriend bankrolls him to buy and fix up a boat. When the boat is repaired, he and his reluctant and rather naive crew set off — but instead of taking the standard river route, they decide to take a more dangerous path that leads them through areas controlled by the natives. The film keeps you guessing as to what will happen next: will they survive against the natives? Will they accomplish their task?
The last collaboration between Herzog and Kinski, 1987’s Cobra Verde sees Kinski as a crazy outlaw that has few rules or limits. When he impresses a rich slave trader, he’s hired to keep the slaves in line during transport. The job leads him traveling around the world and in to dangerous situations that he surely doesn’t shy away from.