Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes

Popol Vuh

" The hypnotic, even spiritual quality of Popol Vuh's music is noteworthy "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the music as heard in the movie

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre: The Wrath of God, 1972) is a film about the journey of a group of conquistadors in their search for riches, leading to a descried, internal strife. It entails a number of Werner Herzog's strongest red wires; the theme of insanity, ambition, isolation, illusion against reality, hope versus insanity, civilisation against nature, greed, and inevitable doom. On the surface, it builds suspense and an unearthed sense gradually and deceptively strong.

To those who do not know the fascinating stories behind the making of the film, and other collaborations between Werner Herzog and borderline insane actor Klaus Kinski; do learn about it from books, interviews, and documentaries.

The collaboration between Popol Vuh's frontman Florian Fricke and Werner Herzog has a long history; from being friends, playing soccer together, Florian meeting him as a journalist, to providing pieces for films as a musician, while providing pieces either pre-existing from Popol Vuh and original score. Herzog usually preferred to listen to what they had in stock and chose pieces for films he was working on prior to post-production. The only exception to this rule is Cobra Verde, which was entirely composed and tailored to the film specifically by Popol Vuh.

Once the turmoil shooting had ended, the film went into post-production. Herzog traveled to Italy to work on the English synchronisation, and considered other music for the film, opting for Ennio Morricone's extensive library of pre-existing music, which left him unsatisfied.

The hypnotic, even spiritual quality of Popol Vuh's music is noteworthy in how it aids all previously mentioned red wires, primarily because of the mellotron-like synthesizer that the director himself described as a choir-organ. There are a few pieces often repeated throughout the film, and while it sounds outdated nowadays, the strong atmosphere is still relevant in context.

A variety of music releases by Popol Vuh, while including music as heard in the film, expanded with additional music for concerts and solo albums, drifting away from the experience of Aguirre. The pieces labeled 'Aguirre' are the only ones to 'fully' appear throughout the film, whereas the rest was created much later, as a typical Popol Voh album. Some of the 'additional' content is gripping, Agnes Dei in particular, while other material is only moderately interesting as a regular Popol Voh album.

Popol Vuh's music, as experienced in the film Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, is one of the most memorable things conceivable.

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- (music as heard in the movie 1972)