When Herzog met Kinski - mild spoilers ...
- My Best Fiend review by NP
This is a documentary written and directed by the acclaimed Werner Herzog, and focusses on his tumultuous relationship with volatile actor Klaus Kinski. Volatile might actually be an understatement for, as the very opening shots reveal, Kinski was a man of unpredictable temper. And when he let go of that temper, well …
It is impossible to review this without at least touching on some of Kinski’s personal peccadillos. In the 1950s, he was diagnosed with psychopathy and was unable to secure film roles. As a result, he twice attempted suicide. His career recovered somewhat, but his schizophrenic behaviour didn’t. After his death, there were various allegations from family members of sexual abuse.
Herzog, despite being labelled a megalomaniac (and other things) by Kinski, has lead a less notorious lifestyle. He has married three times, and has continued to direct to this day.
Featuring much behind-the-scenes footage of Kinski’s rages, Herzog’s personal anecdotes also feature a more measured human being, even suggesting someone who would instigate his tantrums as means of making sure everyone’s attention was focussed on him. Herzog would even provoke his star before a take, ensuring he had got it out of his system in time for filming! Steering Kinski’s volatility could never always be successful, of course, and it is with a vein of black humour that Herzog recounts tales of actually intending to kill his ‘best fiend’.
Two fascinating characters, then, who were often capable of greatness as a result of their explosive relationship. It would, of course, have been fascinating to have had Kinski alive at this time to provide his own reminiscences. But we are left with remembrances from those he worked with, my two favourites featuring one time when his co-star Eva Mattes won an acting award, and Kinski did not. I don’t need such accolades, he is said to have replied: I know I am a genius! Secondly, the two men were at such loggerheads that Herzog threatened to empty eight bullets into Kinski’s head, leaving the ninth for himself!
Who hasn’t got a fiend like that?
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