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My Best Fiend (1999)
"Mein liebster Feind - Klaus Kinski" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Documentary, Biography  |  7 October 1999 (Germany)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 6,931 users   Metascore: 70/100
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In the 1950s, an adolescent Werner Herzog was transfixed by a film performance of the young Klaus Kinski. Years later, they would share an apartment where, in an unabated, forty-eight-hour ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Himself - Narrator / Interviewer
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Justo González ...
Himself - Wilbur (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Eva Mattes ...
Thomas Mauch ...
Benino Moreno Placido ...
Beat Presser ...
Himself (archive footage)
Fitzcarraldo (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Walter Saxer ...
Himself (archive footage)
Baron van der Recke ...
Baronin van der Recke ...
Andrés Vicente ...
Himself (archive footage)


In the 1950s, an adolescent Werner Herzog was transfixed by a film performance of the young Klaus Kinski. Years later, they would share an apartment where, in an unabated, forty-eight-hour fit of rage, Kinski completely destroyed the bathroom. From this chaos, a violent, love-hate, profoundly creative partnership was born. In 1972, Herzog cast Kinski in 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God'. Four more films would follow. In this personal documentary, Herzog traces the often violent ups and downs of their relationship, revisiting the various locations of their films and talking to the people they worked with. Written by L.H. Wong <>

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Release Date:

7 October 1999 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

My Best Fiend  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$7,677 (USA) (5 November 1999)


$95,612 (USA) (25 August 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Werner Herzog: Every grey hair on my head, I call Kinski.
See more »


Features Cobra Verde (1987) See more »

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User Reviews

a very fine and in-depth portrait of a true love/hate combination, not so much a documentary
20 October 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

My Best Fiend, a take on the working relationship and history between filmmaker Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski (by Herzog himself), puts on the facade of a documentary as Herzog interviews some of the participants- actors and at least one crew member- in the productions of the films (Aguirre, Woyzek, Nosferatu, Fitzcarraldo, and Cobra Verde, only the first and third seen by me). But it's less that than a kind of confessional from Herzog, a collection of anecdotes, horror stories, and in general psychologically breaking through the general perceptions regarding their collaborations as actor and director. Part of that perception, of course, is totally correct. Herzog, always a filmmaker wanting the utmost control of his stories about madmen obsessed with goals that seemed impossible or in subject matter that was marked as dark and disturbing as possible (without being too graphic), had to contend with his own kind of 'character' in the form of Kinski, who could be a little frightened being scared of a wasp one moment, and the next acting like someone killed his child when in reality the coffee was lukewarm.

Kinski, in most of the footage that is put forth in this film- even the footage that is basically taken right out of the Herzog works themselves- add to the profile of what this man might be. It's alternately funny and unnerving to see the one big outburst of his anger at a production manager on the set of one of the films, when as Herzog says 'compared to his other outbursts this was mild'. Equally jarring is seeing him doing some kind of Jesus-play or a weird sermon at the start of My Best Fiend, where he comes off like he's half a rock-star and half certifiable. But at the same time a little of the footage, along with some of the anecdotes, also give him the light of something of a schizophrenic, who on the one hand could be extremely demanding and ultimately ego-maniacal if not at the center of attention, and on the other could be the most professional actor this side of a Howard Hawkes picture. Interesting too is seeing the two interviewees who have the best things to say about Kinski- his female co-stars from Woczek and Fitzcarraldo. Maybe there's something of Kinski being the prototypical male as opposed to just being an escaped anger management patient. He's described as being sweet and kind and very polite to his co-stars of the opposite sex. But with the male ones, who knows.

The testimonials from Herzog build to something quite fascinating, not just as a subjective profile of an actor and a quasi-friend (err, fiend); it's also a movie about Herzog too, about how he sort of found out more about himself from having to tame the beast, so to speak. The near legendary story of Herzog threatening murder and suicide if Kinski walked off Aguirre, for example, perhaps showed to his star not exactly that his own director was as nuts as him, but that he took what he was doing just as seriously, if not more so, than he on a professional level. There's even an easy-going scene (the only one with both of the men speaking in English) where they seem most down to earth about why they work together so often. If there is anything that might be lacking from all of this it's that we get to see so much of certain sides of a few of their productions, while Nosferatu and Cobra Verde are either left out altogether or just mentioned in brief towards the end. There's also an unnecessary scene where Herzog is reminiscing over a gallery of photos of Kinski and himself. And the balance between telling one side or the other of the actor's persona seems to not always be shifted totally in proportion; by the end we almost want to see more and find out more than has been presented.

But what is in My Best Fiend is pretty close to priceless for die-hard fans of the director and actor, and as one who's getting more into the filmmaker's career (and finding Kinski to be Germany's much more crazy answer to Al Pacino- an actor with the intensity and passion and skill of twenty actors all in the eyes and mannerisms), it's a very good work to also be seen by people who have not even seen one of the five films by the director and star. It's a very bizarre, very on-edge, but ultimately fruitful collaboration that now has made for a kind of mix of expose, memorial, and elongated denouement. And it also is very funny as well.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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