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Review: Woyzeck

Watched Woyzek on Fandor, continuing my long-overdue binge of Werner Herzog’s body of work. The director’s five collaborations with actor Klaus Kinski are among his finest accomplishments, and this period drama might just be the unsung gem of the bunch.

Shot on an accelerated schedule immediately following the completion of the Nosferatu remake, the film eschews many conventional cinematic techniques (coverage, complex camera movements, etc.) as a matter of necessity. The resulting long, unbroken takes instead emphasize the landscape of Kinski’s tortured, weathered visage, filling the frame with his usual mania and savagery… but also revealing unexpected sensitivity and tenderness. And that’s only appropriate, considering the story is all about a man so desperately and intensely in love that he’s driven to commit murder.

Despite their troubled history, Herzog clearly trusts Kinski to carry the material, and that faith is well-founded—his performance is absolutely captivating, whether he’s the primary focus of the scene or merely a small piece of the overall composition. These two artistic tyrants may have loathed each other offscreen, but you’d have to be crazier than the protagonist himself to argue that they don’t perfectly complement one another.

[Originally written May 7, 2018.]

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