Verde (Klaus Kinski) is a Brazilian bandit who has tormented people
around the country for years. He finds work for a sugar plantation
owner, overlooking the slaves, but quickly makes enemies after
impregnating the owner's three daughters. Too scared to try and punish
him, they decide to send Cobra Verde to Africa hoping that he would
either get killed, or manage to find them more slaves. Arriving in
Africa he makes contact with the King and is sent slaves, but his
Brazilian partners renege on the deal, and he finds himself sentenced
Cobra Verde is based on a largely fictional novel by Bruce Chatwin.
It presents an interesting view of the slave trade, showing that many
Africans were complicit, although the film generally avoids any
political proclamations. We are also treated to a rather unique view of
uncolonised Africa, with the eccentric kings and bizarre customs.
Unfortunately, the storyline is too too sparse to fill the film's
lengthy runtime and the film drags on in many scenes; at the same time,
missing out on lots of opportunities for characterisation. Cobra Verde
is the only real character throughout the film, dozens of interesting
characters pop-up, but disappear just as fast.
Herzog's direction here is rather average. While Aguirre (1972) had an impressive documentary feel, Nosferatu (1979) was beautifully stylised, Woyzeck (1979) was shot like a stage play with very long takes, and Fitzcarraldo (1982) had some wonderful shots; Cobra Verde
resembles a typical Hollywood film for much of its runtime. Herzog's
favourite cinematographer Thomas Mauch left the film very early
after being terroristed by Kinski, and was replaced by the solid but
uninspired Viktor Ruzicka.
some nice images and some very impressive set-pieces - he rounds up an
entire army of fighting women in one scene - but the standard looking
direction diminishes the impact of these scenes. Florian Fricke
provides an interesting but limited soundtrack that is missing in
several scenes where it would have been helpful.
Kinski plays his last leading role in a Herzog film, and one of the
last leading roles he would ever play. He looks tired and worn with
long unkempt hair - an appearance that does suit the role perfectly.
The rest of the cast are mostly unknowns, although they play their
Cobra Verde is the least of the five Herzog/Kinski partnerships. For the most part, the direction is nothing more than average and while many of Herzog's films survive with only a very slight storyline, boosted by impressive visuals, Cobra Verde
really needed a better plot to back it up. Fans of Herzog or Kinski
might want to watch this, but it is certainly not recommended to
newcomers to the duo, and generally not recommended.
Anyone famous in it?
Klaus Kinski - One of the biggest names in Euro-cult cinema, most famous for his 5 films with Herzog.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Werner Herzog - one of European cinema's best directors with a powerful artistic vision in all his films.
Some mild violence.
Lots of National Geographic nudity and several sex references.
Who is it for?
Might be of interest to Herzog/Kinski fans, although not a good starting place and not recommended.
A nice ethinc score from Florian Fricke, although it is not used enough in the film.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Colour. Although
the print looks good, with no damage, the transfer is very poor - the
images are very soft and artifacts are noticable even to a casual
German 5.1, and stereo. English stereo. Both tracks sound good, with good stereo seperation, although 5.1 is rather flat.
English - transcribes the English track. There are notable differences between this and the German dialogue.