Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
West Germany, 1979. Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Screenplay by Werner Herzog, based on the play by Georg Buchner. Cinematography by Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein. Production Design by Henning von Gierke. Costume Design by Gisela Storch. Film Editing by Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. Cannes Film Festival 1979.
Klaus Kinski gives a haunting performance in this dramatically charged adaptation of Georg Buchner’s oft-filmed play. Directed by Werner Herzog with his usual emphasis on human anomaly, it stars Kinski as the orderly posted in his tiny town to “guard” the gates, but most of the time is beset on all sides by his fellow citizens. Kinski’s superiors think him worthless, his doctor is constantly putting him through cruel experiments that he takes without complaint, and his wife carries on with other soldiers without the slightest concern for her husband’s feelings. When he is finally confronted about his cuckoldom, this human punching bag decides he’s not going to take it anymore. Surprisingly short for something that packs such a wallop, the film was made during a short break following Herzog’s filming of Nosferatu, also starring Kinski. The actor claims to have allowed his incredible exhaustion to contribute to his performance; either way, it’s one of his best achievements and the highlight of this very strange but memorable experience.