Friday, March 25, 2011

Butterfly Of Hysteria: Klaus Kinski

"Every grey hair on my head, I call Kinski" - Werner Herzog
Anyone would be lucky to have a best 'fiend' like Klaus Kinski. The man had the raw power of Iggy Pop, the ugly beauty of Serge Gainsbourg and the wacked hysteria of a caged King Kong. He could be a gentle butterfly, then flare into a violent demon in the blink of an eye. But he always brought least when working with Werner Herzog. The pair had a relationship that spanned decades, from when they were in their youth, and included six films: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu (1979), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982), Cobra Verde (1987) and finally, Herzog's postmortem tribute, My Best Fiend.

A Kinski performance is like watching a bridge trembling immediately before it collapses. The stakes are high and nothing else but the performance is worth considering. As Herzog said, Kinski needed to create a sense of chaos to propel himself into a scene or a role and produce something no one else was capable of achieving. But riding that mad tiger can be devouring and it often turned on him, and by extension, the film. Kinski was notorious for breaking contracts and storming off sets in the middle of production, including Cobra Verde, his last alive with Herzog.

But Herzog and Kinski usually brought out the best in each other. "He is the only person, basically, who ever taught me anything," Herzog has said. Their relationship thrived on pushing one another to the edge - as Kinski says in My Best Fiend, "He's crazy. That's why we work together." Herzog concurs, adding, "The only thing that counted in the end was the result on screen."

"I came into this world in the form of a human, but the sun, the stars, the wind, fire, deserts, forests, mountains, skies, oceans, and clouds were trapped inside me. Do not be sad, Nanhoi [Kinski´s son]. The truth is, I can never die."- Klaus Kinski (October 18, 1926 – November 23, 1991


  1. Hey, nice blog. I love Kinski. What an amazing actor and the originality of his insults to Herzog is quite remarkable...haha ;)

  2. thanks eva - we'll not see the likes of klaus again...