Fitzcarraldo and his boat

The “conquistador of the useless” is how Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald – known by the Peruvian locals as Fitcarraldo – is described at one point in Werner Herzog’s fourth collaboration with actor Klaus Kinski. It helps, watching this mad epic conceived on the grandest of scales, to remember that Herzog often described himself that way too. The story is as big as the character of Fitzcarraldo, an obsessive opera-lover with a string of failures behind him, like the Trans-Andean railway that never went anywhere, or the ice-making business with not enough demand for ice locally to make success a possibility. As Herzog raises the curtain, Fitzcarraldo’s latest plan is to build an opera house … Read more

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Klaus Kinski as Aguirre

As madly vainglorious as the expedition it tracks, Aguirre, Wrath of God follows a raggle-taggle band of 16th-century conquistadors into uncharted South America, where they hope to find incalculable riches in the fabled city of El Dorado. It was the first of five uneasy collaborations director Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski made together. Herzog opens on a richly extravagant shot of the conquistadors, the accompanying nobles, plus native bearers and a priest in single file descending through the jungle down towards the Amazon. Money has been spent, the shot shouts. This is a magician’s deflection. Most of the “action” in this movie takes place either on a riverbank or on board a raft … Read more

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Palaeolithic drawings of horses in the Chauvet caves, in Cave of Forgotten Dreams

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 12 January Caves of Nerja discovered, 1959 On this day in 1959, the Caves of Nerja were discovered. Or rediscovered. Stretching for about 5 kilometres close to the town of Nerja, Malaga, Spain, the system was entered by five friends who decided to follow a flock of bats into a locally well known small opening in the ground. This led to a narrow passage. And this led to a huge cavernous grotto now known as the Cascade Room. With the lights they had available they were able to make out the enormity of their find. They pressed on, accompanied by the … Read more

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Bruno S as Kaspar Hauser in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 4 November Genie the feral child found, 1970 On this day in 1970, the child known as Genie was discovered in Los Angeles, California, USA. Aged around 13, she had spent her life tied to a child’s toilet or tied up in a crib, unable to move except her hands and feet. Brought up by a progressively blind mother in thrall to a mentally ill and violent husband, Genie had been fed on nothing but soft or baby food since birth. Genie was the fourth child born to the couple. The first two had died – one of pneumonia from being … Read more