Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God': Sensibilist Cinema

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  • Topic: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Werner Herzog, Popol Vuh
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  • Published : April 16, 2013
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Herzog
Sensibilist cinema derives its root from the English word: sensibility. In its dictionary meaning emotional or aesthetic attunement, awareness, or responsiveness. Applied in the current context, sensibilist cinema can be understood as one that Consists of focus on visual than verbal; a minimalist narrative - more cryptic and obscure. There can be no better example of a sensibilist film than Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Werner Herzog's “Aguirre, the Wrath of God'' (1973) is one of the great haunting visions of the cinema. It tells the story of the doomed expedition of the conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro, who in 1560 and 1561 led a body of men into the Peruvian rain forest, lured by stories of the lost city. The opening shot is a striking image: A long line of men snakes its way down a steep path to a valley far below, while clouds of mist obscure the peaks. These men wear steel helmets and breastplates, and carry their women in enclosed sedan-chairs. They are dressed for a court pageant, not for the jungle. The music sets the tone. It is haunting, ecclesiastical, human and yet something else. It is by Florian Fricke, whose band Popol Vuh (named for the Mayan creation myth) has contributed the soundtracks to many Herzog films. The music, the sound of a Herzog film is organically part of its effect. His stories begin in a straightforward manner, but their result is incalculable, and there is no telling where they may lead: They conclude not in an “ending'' but in the evocation of an emotion within us -- a spiritual or visionary feeling. He purposefully attempts at detaching his audience, standing outside time, saddened by the immensity of the universe as it bears down on the dreams and delusions of man.

Herzog carries the audience through the tumultuous journey of the characters without rushing them in their lives; still as a distanced spectator. What we feel above all is the immensity of the river and the surrounding forest--which offers no shore to...
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