Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (movie review)

My long term readers know I don't always review movies in chronological sequence (what a silly order to go by for anything, right?), so here I'm meditating on a 1972 classic, filmed in the wilds of the Peruvian Jungle starting not far from the ancient Incan capital of Machu Picchu.

I've watched this a few times before, but not recently, and never with the interview with Werner Herzog, the German and English speaking director (maybe Incan as well?). I fell asleep listening to him, and not because I was bored, but because I'd just come from a lecture on sleep disorders at Wanderers by a Shakespeare quoting practicing psychiatrist (packed house), and I came home of two minds: to watch this movie; and to sleep, perchance to dream.

So Aguirre is this mental case who is out to conquer the region, knowing it's been done in Mexico, that the history books are full of such games of pirate treachery. He's too sly to nakedly seize power, but crowns an underling, who shows backbone, bless his heart, but eats too much. Then we have the two XXs (another XX appears later, and fails, like her husband, to hear the Word of God): the delicate princess in the sedan chair, somewhat reminiscent of Kate in Lost, in terms of situation and regal bearing, if not outward behavior, and Aguirre's daughter, gorgeously solitary in her suffering under this tyrant father, who only wants to do it for her. Very compact and psychological. Plus Mother Nature is all around.

During the sleep disorder lecture, which was about the normal sleep cycle, in contrast to all the pathologies, I was tap tapping on my laptop about this number 6174. If you take any four digit number, zeros OK, but never all four the same, and flip it to maximum and minimum permutations, i.e. 6741 and 1467 (always inverses in that way), and subtract, and keep doing it, eventually you'll end up in this "kernel" (6174). I give more details about all this in the Math Forum.

An interesting feature of this Jungle search party is how little people talk, and when they do, it's not to resolve anything, except when it's in writing and made part of the official record. Mostly they just gaze into their own souls and/or play the flute. Even the horse seems more interior, a ghost horse, than exterior.

I salute Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski (a magnificent Aguirre), for inspiring the confidance and level of participation they got from such a marvelous and intelligent cast. And speaking of movie directors, I caught the NPR interview by Terry Gross of Richard Linklater. Towards the end, Linklater is basically razzing kids who want to grow up and make movies ("the chances of that happening..."), which I imagine grated on Terry's nerves a bit (anyway, did mine), but going back I heard a caring teacher, really spurring young listeners to rise to the occasion and live their dreams.

Don't just be a spectator in this game of life, and always remember: Mother Nature is watching.

My thanks to Mike Hagmeier for reminding me about Aguirre (Fitzcarraldo reenqueued), and to Trevor Blake for steering me to the 6174 discussion, over coffee at Peet's.