Of all of Werner Herzog's films, none bore into the psyche quite like those that serve as messianic homages to Herzog's muse and lifelong friend/mortal enemy, Klaus Kinski. No other filmmaker even approached Herzog's ability to capture the supernatural wild animal that Kinski was capable of evoking. (For info on Cinema 21's Werner Herzog Film Festival, see pg. 45.)
• My Best Fiend (1999)—An excellent primer to the tortured Kinski/Herzog relationship, My Best Fiend explores the now deceased Kinski's ongoing friendship with Herzog. A man of deep intensity and probable psychological problems, Kinski's ability to radiate a palpable aura onscreen was due in large part to his most ardent torturer: Herzog.
• Fitzcarraldo (1982)—The labored production of Fitzcarraldo involved hauling a 340-ton steamboat over a muddy mountain in South America. This feat, along with Kinski's daily tantrums, steered this excellent film toward the edge of failure. The cast and crew's torturous frustration is obvious in this feature about a man who is driven to bring opera to the Amazon, marrying heaven and hell.
• Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)—This film's difficult circumstances caused Herzog to issue the warning to Kinski, "You leave this jungle now, and you'll find eight bullets in you—and the ninth one will be for me." Aguirre is a tale of a conquistador (played by a seething Kinski) who declares himself God in the wilderness and embarks on a physically and spiritually impossible excursion to El Dorado, the City of Gold.
• Cobra Verde (1987)—In his last collaborative feature with Kinski, Herzog cast him as a 19th century slave overseer thrown into exile due to his possible collusion in the impregnation of several of the plantation owner's daughters. The act of throwing Cobra Verde (Kinski) into the wilderness delivers him to the gates of madness—which means we're yet again treated to the wild-eyed, kinetic talent of the Kinski/Herzog collaboration.