Culture Your Ass: ‘My Best Fiend’

Written by Barfoot December 31, 2011

The relationship between the director, Herzog, and the actor, Kinski, was at best chaotic and confrontational. Herzog was controlled, and stoic; he actually called himself “clinically sane”. Kinski was an untamed free spirit who spent time in an asylum, and was, at least at one time, actually insane.

‘My Best Fiend’ is a documentary about the stormy relationship between these two men. While filming ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’, Kinski became exhausted by the relentlessness of the Amazonian rainforest. One evening Kinski cracked. In a feral rage he began screaming, calling for a mutiny and threatening to leave the production. Herzog knew that Kinski could not leave. If he did, the entire production would be ruined and Herzog with it. Thinking quickly Herzog grabbed a hunting rifle and rather calmly pointed it at Kinski’s face, saying that if he leaves he would surely shoot him in the back of the head.

I’m sure that most people have worked with someone that infuriates them; that boils their blood. It’s a natural occurrence and some personalities, and some creative visions, just don’t match. Often these chaotic relationships can produce some outstanding works, though. There is something Hegelian about the thesis and antithesis pushing together aggressively to meet a new, better synthesis. For Kinski and Herzog that seems to be the case.

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