A stunning, terrifying exploration of human obsession descending into madness. Herzog's most powerful fiction film chronicles the Peruvian expedition led by Gonzalez Pizarro (half-brother of the brutal conqueror of the Incas) in search of the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. The film
opens in 1560 when Pizarro (Repulles), his men exhausted from their excruciating journey through the dense jungles, decides to send a small party ahead to determine if exploration should continue. Though Don Pedro de Ursua (Guerra) is put in charge, he is challenged by the maniacally ambitious
Aguirre (Kinski), who insists against increasingly overwhelming odds that the journey continue, with devastating consequences. The film is based on a journal written by Gaspar de Carvajal, who was one of an army of Spaniards who accompanied the real Gonzalez Pizarro.
Kinski's intensity makes him a remarkable Aguirre; indeed, it is difficult to recall a more intensely driven character in film. His madness is portrayed against an almost hallucinatory environment enhanced by Thomas Mauch's brilliant cinematography and Popol Vuh's spare score. Herzog's cast and
crew suffered incredible hardships filming in unexplored regions of South America but as a result the director captured a hostile, mysterious jungle world in such a way as to trivialize complaints that traditional story elements and character development are missing. Just as Aguirre is able to
overwhelm the people around him, so the watcher can count on a staggering cinematic experience that assaults the senses.
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