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Woyzeck1979

  • 4.1
Werner Herzog had long been fascinated by Georg Büchner’s 19th-century play (and 1920s opera by Alban Berg) about a soldier pushed to the point of madness and he finally got his chance to film it mere days after wrapping NOSFERATU. With his crew intact and star Klaus Kinski in the lead, everyone headed to Czechoslovakia for a breakneck eighteen-day shoot. Kinski's feral face is haggard, tortured and twisted in desperation as a tormented garrison soldier who submits to scientific experiments for extra cash. The abuse from both the sadistic superior officers on the base and the heartless scientists pushing him to exhaustion finally prove too much for the overworked soldier. The production reportedly mirrored the drama as Herzog put Kinski through a grueling ordeal as they rushed through the production. That torment is up on the screen for all to see in this brutal drama, one of the director's starkest visions. - Sean Axmaker

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2 members like this review

Watch this if you want to watch Kinski in prime kinetic form. A silent movie star, but with a voice. And the genius of this movie, is that it is literary. This would actually work as a silent movie, but we must watch and listen to this story of a poet to really move us. It is important to recognize the production of this was on the heals of their massive Nosferatu (Phantom der Nacht).

Is Kinski merely a puppet in Herzog's film vision? Is Herzog the phantom General? Or is Kinski pushing his body and emotions beyond the Director's expectations? Decide for yourself. Oh, and prepare for perfectly composed scenes and characters with minds of their own.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (5)

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top reviewer

Watch this if you want to watch Kinski in prime kinetic form. A silent movie star, but with a voice. And the genius of this movie, is that it is literary. This would actually work as a silent movie, but we must watch and listen to this story of a poet to really move us. It is important to recognize the production of this was on the heals of their massive Nosferatu (Phantom der Nacht).

Is Kinski merely a puppet in Herzog's film vision? Is Herzog the phantom General? Or is Kinski pushing his body and emotions beyond the Director's expectations? Decide for yourself. Oh, and prepare for perfectly composed scenes and characters with minds of their own.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

Paranoia,madness and murder, subjects covered with ease by Werner Herzog along with the more than able Klaus Kinski. How Kinski was able to hold Woyzek's persona and then build on it makes this expressionist play come to life and a one of a kind experience. A scathing study of human nature.

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top reviewer

The tragedy of Franz and Marie is a painterly cinematographic work, having beautifully brush stroked visuals, lyrical dialogue and characters that are also caricatures and symbols. Woyzeck is fragile, vulnerable and ultimately debased. Kinski's expressiveness and embodiment of the struggle and suffering is incredible -- it was so difficult to have to take one's eyes off him to read the subtitles. Bravo Herzog and Kinski.

The film has been read as anti-capitalist critique, and this critique is certainly present: "If we ever got to heaven, they'd make us work the thunder," Woyzeck says to his Captain. As with the work of Dostoyevsky and Marx - among many other 19th century writers - we are struck by the alienation and subjective fragmentation endemic to a decaying social order, one soon to be sublated by a cold, pseudo-humanist rationality, and concerned only fetishistically with "die tugend, die tugend."

That said, there remains something obscene in the way Herzog aestheticizes Woyzeck's ultimate act of violence. (It seems significant in this regard that Scene 24 of Büchner's play, an autopsy, was omitted.) The lighting, colour palette and largely static cinematography are all impeccably beautiful throughout, but viewers should ask themselves: what is the political function of this beauty?

solid flick.