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Eric Ames draws on original archival research to provide fresh perspectives on Werner Herzog's breakthrough 1972 film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes), which portrays an expedition by Spanish conquistadors led by Aguirre (played by Klaus Kinski) to find the legendary city of El Dorado. Ames explores how the film is remembered: for its breathtaking visual style and narrative power, but also for Herzog's tense, behind-the-scenes relationship with star Kinski. Did Herzog really direct him at gunpoint? Did they plot each other's murder? The legends begin here …
Ames reconstructs the film as an experiment in visualising the past from the viewpoint of the present. Aguirre is not a history film in the narrow sense, but it does engage a specific episode in the conquest of the New World, and it explores that history in terms of vision. Interweaving close analysis with extensive archival research, Ames explores Aguirre as a seminal film about the madness and hopelessness of Western striving. In addition, as an appendix, he offers for the first time a complete translation of an infamous, secretly recorded argument between Herzog and Kinski on the set.
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