Klaus Kinski in Fitzcarraldo (dir. Werner Herzog, 1982).

The clanging, histrionic swelling of the Popol Vuh score is my first point of reference for this film, which I watched for the first time last week. Back in 1982 I became very familiar with the soundtrack, as my brother played it obsessively (when he died four years ago, it was one of the small handful of his LPs that I set aside to keep, even though I don't have a record player). Perhaps partly for this reason, the music was absolutely central to me upon finally seeing the movie. The slow, steady progression up to and including the dragging of the steamboat over the mountain feels itself like an excruciating symphonic movement, a largely impressionistic set of vague symbols in increasingly massive relation to each other. Kinski's face provides the perfect register of this movement's emotional intricacy, in both his spectatorial capacity as enthusiastic opera buff, and his composer-like role as Herzog's surrogate. The music seems like a wild, irrational emanation of his soul--and not just as an abstract representation of what he feels, but what he imagines causing concretely to be heard.

The story's resolution flies in the face of conventional expectations around narrative tension, but yields its own organic integrity and surprising shapeliness: a blithe subversion of inevitability, culminating in a space of blank epiphany that can be experienced as either statically existential or dynamically joyous.


Wade said...

Great movie. Now you should watch Aguirre, if you haven't seen it already.

Ed Hardy, Jr. said...

It's rather fitting that the music is the first thing about the film you were familiar with and one of the most powerful parts of the viewing of it, as the power of music and what we're willing to do for it is a large theme of the film.

Bryan said...

Can it be both statically existential AND dynamically joyous? I just watched this movie 3 days ago and I think it rendered both joy and hopelessness in my feeble bones.

I've never really appreciated opera (and I doubt I ever will) but this movie created a space where I could appreciate opera. I think Klaus Kinski's crazy eyes were the place I could appreciate opera.

Wade said...

" I think Klaus Kinski's crazy eyes were the place I could appreciate opera."


James said...

It's the crazed ambition that always draws me in. That passion. That unshakeable passion and drive. You hit on it here: "statically existential or dynamically joyous".

The film has such wonderful, powerful energy in it.