best film: Aguirre, the Wrath of God is Werner Herzog’s grand masterpiece and Klaus Kinski will forever be linked with Herzog so this is his best film as well. Aguirre is so forceful – it feels like it is twice as long (in a good way) as its modest 95-minute running time. Kinski has actually been in some sneaky good films outside of his renowned collaborations with Herzog (Doctor Zhivago, For a Few Dollars More, The Great Silence) but it is Herzog’s own Fitzcarraldo that gives Aguirre the closest run for its money here in this category. Herzog’s haunting Peruvian jungle escapade is one of the most ambitious of all-time – certainly a trait shared with runner-up Fitzcarraldo (filmed ten years later, and back in Peru). Cinephiles have to admire the big swings both Herzog and Kinski.
best performance: Aguirre, the Wrath of God with again Fitzcarraldo the easy choice for the next best. Actually, it is that trio of performances at the top that put Kinski so high up on this list despite the truncated achievable filmography. It is impossible to picture an actor half as eerie (and just flat crazy) as Kinski and to pull off Don Lope de Aguirre. He is terrifying – lost in his monomania.
stylistic innovations/traits: Born in 1926 in what is now Poland, Klaus Kinski grew up in Berlin and become one of the true rare bird of acting artists of the twentieth century. His eleven (11) archiveable films are a little light (he was in well over one hundred films – pretty much the Nic Cage of his day taking on most of what was offered to him and often ending up in pretty mediocre films). Kinski was self taught and some sources talk about his personality issues/disorders – but whatever the diagnosis – his larger than life personality on screen certainly bled over into his personal life (caught in documentaries during and after his life). Kinski’s bug eyes and distinct features make for a perfectly odd vehicle for Herzog’s explorations on obsession and ambition. At his best, Kinski was simply hypnotic as a performer – impossible to takes your eyes off of. One could describe him as unnerving, mesmerizing, and disturbing for sure. He was a fine character actor in Italy and Hollywood during the 1960s (he chews the scenery in Doctor Zhivago) but it is his partnership with Herzog that he will be remembered for. Kinski could really only play a madman – but madmen make for such riveting viewing and there is really nobody better. He gives one of the best male acting performances of the 1970s (Aguirre) and 1980s (Fitzcarraldo).
directors worked with: Werner Herzog (5), Douglas Sirk (1), David Lean (1), Sergio Leone (1), Sergio Corbucci (1). One cannot overstate the importance of his work with Herzog. The other names here are directors that Kinski worked with once a piece with probably because he was so tough to handle. It is just a little misleading to mention them because Kinski is not crucial to any of these films (Corbucci’s The Great Silence the exception). In his five films with Herzog, Kinski is the film’s soul – almost always on screen.
top five performances:
- Aguirre, the Wrath of God
- Nosferatu the Vampyre
- Cobra Verde
- The Great Silence
|1958- A Time to Love and a Time to Die|
|1965- Doctor Zhivago|
|1965- For a Few Dollars More|
|1968- The Great Silence|
|1972- Aguirre, the Wrath of God|
|1975- The Most Important Thing: Love|
|1979- Nosferatu the Vampyre|
|1981- Buddy, Buddy|
|1987- Cobra Verde|