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Frames 'n' friends

They were great friends, but they also had the bitterest of fights. The recent Herzog-Kinski film festival opened up the relationship between the two in its several shades

BETWEEN LOVE AND WAR The Herzog-Kinski partnership lasted for five movies, considered among the best of both their lives and careers

Collective Chaos' Herzog and Kinski Film Festival held on October 22 and 23 showcased some of the best films of the duo. Herzog, a director, actor and screenplay writer worked with Kinski for almost two decades, producing some of the most brilliant movies in the history of films. Werner Herzog, known for his legendary approach to filmmaking, is subject to contrary opinions. Some viewers regard his work a depiction of stark reality while others consider it surreal, self-indulgent and elaborate. But his films have a haunting, mystical and sublime quality that holds one spellbound. The man himself is regarded as a tyrant though. His eccentric behavior and bold approach to filmmaking produced some visually astounding movies that no other director would have dared to attempt.

Herzog teamed with Klaus Kinski in the 70's. Kinski is considered one of the most eccentric and volatile actors in the history of films. His ravings on stage attracted and astounded people. As Herzog says in My Best Fiend, Kinski was his best when all the eyes were on him. But his temperament and inability to work with authority caused constant problems for the directors and lost Kinski many jobs. Directors were simply unable to figure out how to harness Kinski's true madness and energy, till Herzog. Their partnership lasted for five movies, considered among the best of both their lives. Not that it was all nice and rosy between them. Their relationship was turbulent and it was partly the cause for the intensity seen in their movies.

The film festival opened with Woyzeck, a film based on the incomplete play of Georg Buchner. Franz Woyzeck is a poor flunky in the army, suffering silently listening to the sermons of a philosophising army major, subjecting himself to the experiments of a doctor who declares that Woyzeck is the perfect subject for an asylum and that he deserves a raise for this madness. Woyzeck's wife, Marie (Eva Mattes) has an affair with a stout drum major. Woyzeck is publicly humiliated by the drum major. This sparks off his slow journey into murderous insanity.

The movie shows hints of its theatrical origins. The story opens with a comical yet poignant picture of Woyzeck doing push-ups at the major's boot. Kinski's haunted and wretched eyes catch immediate attention. Woyzeck's wringing hands and the illusory sounds that haunt him depict his slide into murderous insanity. Kinski brings a suppressed frenzy into Woyzeck that blooms as he sinks in the depths of despair and madness, leading him to murder his wife.

Nosferatu - The Vampire (1979) is an adaptation of the 1922 classic by F.W. Murnau. Herzog's Count Dracula is a pitiful creature, longing for acceptance and beset by loneliness. Count Dracula (Kinski) is almost humanised here, plagued by a carving for love and life. Herzog's idiosyncratic shots of open mouthed mummies, lonely mountain passes, rats crawling in the entire town, the plague afflicted town and the haunting music are hypnotising. Bruno Ganz and Isabelle Adjani, as the couple who fall victim to Count Dracula and eventually the cause of his death, are brilliant.

Aguirre, The Wrath of God and Cobra Verde were the other movies screened in the festival. Aguirre, The Wrath of God marks the first movie of Herzog and Kinski together, is considered the best movie of their lives. The movie, set in the 16th century, is Herzog's tale about Spanish colonialists searching for the mythical city of El Dorado. The cinematography is exclusively Herzog with candid shots of the forests, the flooded river and the animal infested raft. Kinski is Aguirre, the ambitious and ruthless man intent on conquering the world, blind to his men's difficulties and sickness but caring towards his daughter accompanying them on their mission. The contrast is subtle and impressive.

Cobra Verde is the last movie of Herzog and Kinski. The clashes between Kinski and Herzog became unbearable and they vowed never to work together again. In My Best Fiend, a documentary, Herzog reminiscences about Kinski and his relationship. It is a story starting with Kinski's fevered ravings on stage, moving through the house they lived together during Herzog's childhood and the movies they made together. It captures some of Kinski's raving moments on and off camera, their magnetic and destructive force that resulted in wonderful movies. Eva Mattes, Claudia Cardinale, Justo Gonzales, people who worked with Kinski, recollect their experiences of working with him. My Best Fiend is about the intense love hate relationship between the two men. And perhaps the closest we come to understanding the effort, the mind and the heart of the two men behind the brilliant films.


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