On Christmas Day, 1560, a group of Spanish conquistadors led by Gonzalo Pizarro (Alejandro Repullés) entered the South American jungle in search of the legendary city of gold El Dorado. By New Year’s Day, a frustrated Pizarro sends Don Pedro de Ursúa (Ruy Guerra) and Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) along with a group of men to travel down the river to see what lies ahead. And thus the doomed expedition gets on its way.
Today’s Christmas-related movie is Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
The jungle is massive and overgrown, and the conquistadors look lost and foolish as they pretend they’re bringing civilization to this land and its peoples. Aguirre, the second in command, leads a revolt to instill himself the expedition’s leader. As they get further down the river, the supplies run low and they are constantly attacked by the natives.
There are very few truly, brilliantly, mad filmmakers. In the 1970s, Werner Herzog was one of the maddest. Early on in his career, he shot full-length motion pictures in such a guerrilla style that the stories about making those movies have become legendary. Herzog actually took his crew into the jungles of Peru and made the movie there. There is a notorious legend about a fight that broke out between Herzog and his star during filming — the tale goes that an armed Herzog threatened to kill Kinski if he left the production before the film was finished. Herzog has said many times that the story has been exaggerated. He’s even made fun of it in the film Incident at Loch Ness. Regardless of the drama behind the camera, Aguirre is still a brilliant film.