|Cinergía Movie File:
Aguirre, The Wrath of God
Directed by Werner Herzog, 1973
Aguirre, The Wrath of God
Created by Brian Sabella
Scroll down or Click on any section to jump ahead:
Section 1: Pre-screening
Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism
Section 3: Media analysis
Note: Given the transitory nature of internet resources we suggest conducting a search to help answer the pre-screening questions. Only a few links are included below.
Roger Ebert’s Review:
In English. See what movie critic Roger Ebert thinks of this classic movie. He gives a brief overview of the plot and points out some cinematographic aspects of the film.
In English. This site gives a brief outline of the life and works of director Werner Herzog. It also gives some indication of his personality (“One of the most eccentric figures in the New German Cinema...”) and of his unconventional filmmaking techniques.
In English. It is always important to consider multiple viewpoints when examining history, in order to avoid subjecting oneself to a biased perspective. This site offers three different versions of Francisco Pizarro’s invasion of Latin America, which in turn, allows the individual to avoid the common pitfall of accepting only a single account of history.
About Lope de Aguirre
In English. This site goes into great detail about nearly every aspect of Lope de Aguirre’s life. It is important to realize that every single film based on a true story takes the liberty of changing and excluding certain historical facts in order to adapt the story to a viewable motion picture. Try to take note of the liberties Aguirre, the Wrath of God takes by comparing its version of the past to that of this text.
In English. This is another piece of writing devoted to the historical figure Lope de Aguirre. Because this is an encyclopedia article, the approach is slightly more straightforward and objective.
In English. In the film, Aguirre and his crew are searching for a land of gold, El Dorado, and this site focuses on its history. The theme of reaching for the unreachable is an important one in Aguirre, so focusing on El Dorado may very well shed some light on this matter.
Klaus Kinski Article
In English. This encyclopedia article describes the life and works of the Aguirre actor, Klaus Kinski. Kinski starred in a number of Herzog’s films and the two had an interesting chemistry together.
2: Film Comprehension and Criticism
The following quotes come from: Thomas H. Holloway, " Whose Conquest Is This, Anyway? Aguirre, the Wrath of God" in Donald F. Stevens (ed.) Based on a True Story: Latin American History at the Movies. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1997, pp. 29-46.
display any of the characteristics explained above in the film?
Do the places,
dates, and number of men of the film coincide with those of reality?
What, do you
think, is the reason for this neglect of historical accuracy?
What is Holloway
trying to say in the third quotation?
Herzog’s attitude towards historical accuracy say about the film?
Does the film
aid to your understanding of the historical period?
What are some
possible inaccuracies in the film? How
do they affect the viewer’s understanding of the period?
Is this a
good film to watch to learn about the conquest of Latin America?
3: Media analysis
This still is taken from the first scene of the movie when Pizarro and his crew of slaves and warriors are snaking down the face of a mountain. First, the camera is focused on the misty mountaintop and as it slowly pans down, the crew becomes visible to the viewer. Their position below the camera and their large distance from it suggests the perspective of an omnipresent power, reminding us that man is weak and mortal when compared to the supremacy of Nature.
wheel is introduced \ early in the film and reappears constantly later in many
different respects. First, the
metaphorical wheel of destruction is a recurrent theme throughout the entire
voyage. One could picture a wheel
marked with four points, each one equidistant and placed on the perimeter.
As the wheel rolls on the ground, and at any one time, there is a point
that is on top, one falling, one being smashed, and another rising.
It seems as though this expedition begins as one of the falling points
and ends up being smashed on the bottom. Also,
this wheel is the first circle that is introduced in the film.
All through the voyage, both cinematographic and metaphorical circles are
constantly utilized, perhaps to emphasize concepts of confusion and the
reliability of fate.
position of the camera well below Aguirre suggests the enormous magnitude of his
character. In his own mind, Aguirre
is a man with all the power of a god and an individual who is more considerable
than any of his peers. What's more,
because of this angle, the still is dripping with irony.
While the camera makes Aguirre look physically and metaphorically
enormous, the viewer knows very well of the impending death of himself, his
crew, and his grandiose mind-set. The
size of the sky above him reminds the viewer that Aguirre is no less human
being—and thus mortal—than anyone else.
Finally, Nature eradicates all that tries to overtake it. During the entire film, Aguirre had been attempting to occupy that which was not his, and now he is finally being defeated by that which is stronger that him. Its almost as though Nature is mocking Aguirre and his daring plan by swarming his pitiful raft with monkeys. As he walks from side to side, his posture begins to worsen, while being crushed by the massive gray sky. The camera continues to circle the raft, indicating that the wheel of misfortune will remain turning for all of eternity.
Media Literacy Questions:
Media messages communicate explicit and implicit values; name some values of Don Pedro de Ursúa the film seemed to encourage and some values of Lope de Aguirre the film seemed to discourage.
Comment on the
significance of the leitmotiv of “vicious circles” (both cinematographic
and metaphorical) throughout the film.
How would Aguirre,
the Wrath of God be different if it were presented by a medium other
than film (i.e. novel, soap opera, etc.)?
was not heard? Why do you think
that viewpoint was not included in the film?
Comment on the
significance of the music that is played during the opening of the film when
Pizarro’s men are descending the Andes. Can you think of another instance when music played an
important role in conveying a certain aspect of the film?
you think of another instance when a unique cinematographic feature played a
significant role in conveying a certain aspect of the film?
Does the plot
of Aguirre, the Wrath of God seem motivated by historical accuracy,
by creating a successful drama, or both?
Do you think many are inspired or impressed by Aguirre’s diligence and
leadership despite the overall ugliness of his character? If so, do you believe that to be the intention of the
film or an unforeseen effect?
Did it seem
like Aguirre, the Wrath of God was more driven by commercial
characteristics (that is, the need to make money) or by the creation of art?
Are there any groups or people who would be offended by this film or think that it promoted “immoralities”? Are their voices loud enough to affect the success of the film or the creation of another like it?
What do you
suppose the creators of this film have to say about authority?
Who is the
intended audience of this film? (i.e.
would a ten year-old child get anything from this movie?)
Do you think it
is important to research the director of this film, Werner Herzog, before
viewing? Why or why not?
Do you think
the purpose of Aguirre, the Wrath of God was to inform, entertain, or
persuade? Was it a combination
of these three? Support your
How did the
film attempt to influence the attitudes, behaviors, and values of its
Is Aguirre, the Wrath of God the type of film that can be enjoyed to its fullest extent through mere, passive absorption or must the viewer engage himself in its themes, plotlines, etc. to be fully appreciated? How is this?
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Created on 4/10/01
Last updated on 08/27/2007