MY BEST FIEND: KLAUS KINSKI
(directed by Warner Herzog, 1999)
**** (out of 5)
> This curiosity is an intriguing Herzog documentary about the eccentric filmmaker’s tempestuous friendship with an actor who was one of his main leading men in five memorable films, including the masterworks FITZCARRALDO and AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD. And what a singular character Klaus Kinski was! Brash, intense, rude, belittling, obsessed, confrontational, profoundly insecure, shamelessly hypocritical, strident, megalomaniacal and yes- extremely talented, Kinski is a perfect subject for Herzog’s cinematic eye. Of course in so doing, he is forced to make himself the subject as well.
. Herzog paints a picture of a deeply unhinged man who took frequent turns into near-insanity. (No, this was not autobiography.) This of course is not free from irony, as Mr. Herzog himself has often been characterized as barely sane. (During the filming of WHERE THE GREEN ANTS DREAM the possessed director was having problems convincing his aboriginal actors to follow his directions, so knowing they revere madmen as being near to God, he ran and jumped into a thicket of cactus, impaling his body with hundreds of needles and necessitating several surgeries. Some needles remain in his body, and will until his dying day. Is this the act of a “sane” man?) But it gets worse:
. Herzog admits that there was a time where he very seriously plotted to kill his “best friend”, even going so far as to begin to put his plans into action, expressing relief that his sinister plot failed. We get a tangible taste of how difficult the unruly actor was to work with in scenes of shocking on the set temper tantrums and offscreen bullying. Still, we get a sense that the great German director was savvy enough to control and manipulate this maddening actor, who was constantly threatening to walk off the set if his unreasonable demands were not immediately met. Herzog seemed to know how to “use” Kinski’s unhinged hysteria to wring great performances from this explosive firecracker of a man. After seeing this film, it was amazing to consider that Kinski appeared in over 130 films before his demise in 1991. Who on earth would want to have this near-lunatic in their project was beyond me! The man was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a responsible adult. Kinski treated people abysmally- often launching into senseless rages that would last hours or days. I would imagine producers demanded a completion bond to cast him.
. Still, this film shows moments of surprising tranquility between the two often-contentious “frenemies” and reflects a clear love between the two great artists. If you have any interest in film acting or directing, see this singular film.
* * *
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.