Throughout cinema history there have been certain flashpoints, the sparks produced when a director and an actor recognise in each other their alter ego: Ford and Wayne; Scorsese and De Niro. Perhaps the most intense of these has been the extraordinary collaborations between German visionary Werner Herzog and the fabled maniac who became his artistic double and evil twin, the late Klaus Kinski.
This incredible set chronicles their tempestuous relationship via the five features they made together. There’s the Conquistador’s downfall, Aguirre: The Wrath Of God (1972); Kinski as a pale, lonely Nosferatu (1978); the soldier’s tale Woyzeck (1979); the insanely ambitious Fitzcarraldo (1982); and an unsentimental portrait of the late-19th century slave trade, Cobra Verde (1988). All are studies of isolation, alienation and extremes, filmed in the remotest of places with Herzog’s incredible eye for raw nature. What’s even more compelling is the love-hate relationship between the two men as they goad one another to further heights. Kinski’s fearlessly expressionistic acting never found a more sympathetic collaborator, but as Herzog’s 1999 documentary on their stormy friendship, My Best Fiend (also included), makes clear, he had to fight to control what he’d unleashed. Essential viewing.