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The feared bandit Cobra Verde (Klaus Kinski) is hired by a plantation owner to supervise his slaves. After the owner suspects Cobra Verde of consorting with his young daughters, the owner wishes him gone. Rather than kill him,the owner sends Cobra Verde to Africa. The only white man in the area, Cobra Verde finds himself the victim of torture and humiliation. Later, he trains soldiers in a rebel army. Far from home, Cobra Verde is on the edge of madness. Written by
Ken Miller <email@example.com>
Director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinsky did many films together. They were all spectacular because of Herzogs direction and they all had an intensely insane looking leading man because of Kinskys solid performances. Cobra Verde was their last collaboration together because three years after making this film Kinsky died. He left a great legacy as an actor and Cobra Verde is a prime example of that.
The story is about Francisco Manuel (aka the Bandit of Cobra Verde) a bandit who goes from town to town looking for a strange new world. Basically everyone fears him because he is untamable, like a wild beast. One day, he gets a job taking care of slaves in a Sugar Cane field and he gets to live in the same house as his boss, the owner of the fields. Cobra Verde being the bandit that he is has his way with not one, but all three of the bosses daughters and gets them pregnant. The boss, looking for a way to get back at Cobra Verde for what he did, sends him on a mission to Africa to buy more slaves. Of course the bosses real intentions are to get Cobra Verde killed in the journey. What they don't know is that Cobra Verde is not a person who easily gives up and hes a tough cookie to kill. And so begins Cobra Verdes journey into the hot, deadly and colorful depths of Africa.
This movie, like many of Herzogs films is a journey into the unknown. I love how Herzog does that in all his films. Transporting us to strange places that truly exist, but are so wondrous and amazing that they have a surreal dreamlike feel to them. On Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre we went deep into the Amazonian Jungle, but on Cobra Verde we get to see the heart and soul of Africa. Once the movie gets to Africa (on its second half) things get really interesting and you will find yourselves completely immersed in the African culture. From the injustices of slavery to the savagery of African tribes. It was all new, strange and different to me because Herzog really went in there and found incredible real life locations in which to shoot Cobra Verde. Its as if Herzog searches out these incredible places, dives deep into them, and then brings them back to us via his films for us to enjoy.
This movie is epic in scale and it shows in every single frame of film. We get hundreds of extras in many scenes. One particular scene stood out and its the one in which Kinsky trains hundreds of African women all dressed in their war attire and marching while singing their war songs. It was fantastic and epic and I loved every second of it. Not only that but its even more amazing when I learned that this huge looking film only cost two million dollars to make! I was unaware that a film of such grand scale could be made with so little money. Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Herzogs style of film-making.
Klaus Kinsky once again turns in an intense performance as the titular character. He certainly goes in a journey from being a bandit to becoming the king of an African tribe. I really got to like his character because he is a guy who literally does what he wants and has complete freedom over what to do with his life. Nobody tells this guy what to do, but once he sets his sites on achieving a goal (and its usually something pretty daunting) he goes all the way to make it happen.
Even when he accepts the responsibilities and challenges involved in going to Africa and taking slaves back to Brazil considering that slavery is almost completely abolished, he does it with a sure hand, ready to face whatever situations life might hurl at him. And Kinsky does all this with his own brand style, that crazy look the wild hair. In one particular scene in which he is training thousands of African women to go to war he goes completely ballistic trying to teach them how to properly handle a shield and a spear.
I've got a few complaints though, this movie has a few loopholes and unrealistic situations. I think a lot of it has to do with Herzog trying to evoke a feeling of otherworldliness and strangeness but in one particular scene Cobra Verde has to send a message from on place to another and he does it via thousands of people standing in line doing these secret signals with white flags and one person duplicates the message until it reaches the other person hundreds of miles away. This scene might lend itself for a beautiful and strange image, but its completely unrealistic! But I was willing to let it go for sake of artistic liberty. Another thing that grated me the wrong way was how one of the African kings spoke perfect English, as well as all his followers. The scene would have been a lot more believable with the king having a translator, but as it was filmed, its hard to believe that a king in the middle of Africa would speak English, and much less have all his thousands of followers understand him and cheer him. Again, a minor set back in a great film.
Like many of Herzogs films, the pace is sometimes slow, but when Herzog wants to amaze you he will. There will be moments of heavy dialog, and slow situations and then Whamo! Herzog will hit you in the head with something truly amazing. Trust me on this, this movie has many surprises up its sleeves! And you wont be disappointed if you enjoy movies that take you to strange new worlds.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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