Woyzeck (Klaus Kinski) is a private in the army. Insulted and tortured
by his army seniors; trying to supplement his income by being a guinea
pig for a twisted scientist; and being betrayed by his wife, he is
slowly driven into a muderous insanity...
Woyzeck is based on a stage play, written by German writer George
Büchner in 1836, and left incomplete after his early death. The
play remains as a series of 27 unordered fragments; for the screenplay,
Herzog takes all but two of these scenes and works them into a logical
(but debated) order, remaining very faithful to the text. The main
focus of the story is on the tragic figure of Woyzeck and serves as a
commentary on the treatment of the working class - in order to make
enough money to stay alive, Woyzeck has to be subservient to his army
masters and give up his dignity to the probing scientist - ultimately
when the upper class officer starts to approach his woman, he knows
that he is powerless to stop him - with one exception. The film retains the relatively slow
pacing of a stage play throughout, but never drags.
direction is interesting in its absence: most of the scenes are
presented in 4 minute single takes, usually with an unmoving camera and
almost no stylisation. Essentially, this gives the film the ambience of
a stage-play, and allows the viewer to focus entirely on the storyline,
which is interesting enough to support the film. Similarly, the
soundtrack is very sparse, only at the start of the film, and the
climax towards the end - in keeping with the 17th Century feel, it is a
harpsichord/string instrument theme.
Kinski plays the lead role here, and the part could well have been
written just for him. Although he often played characters bordering on
the edge of insanity, he rarely played such a subservient role and it
is strange to see him completely humiliated and looked down upon by the
other characters - despite this, he performs with such distinction that
is would be impossible to imagine the film, or even the play, could be
half as good without him. Eva Mattes as his woman had just appeared in
Herzog's Stroszeck (1977) and gives an equally good performance here. Look out for euro-cult regular Herbert Fux as an army officer.
is the least known of the five Herzog/Kinski partnerships, the play it
is based on has little resonance outside Germany and so the film was
not seen much outside of its home country. If you have enjoyed the
other Herzog/Kinski films, then this is certainly worth checking
out, but not the best pace to start. For anyone interested in the
play then this film is probably the best way to see it, as close to the
original intention as possible. Partly 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.
Some very strong hints, but no nudity.
Who is it for?
This film should be of interest to Herzog/Kinski fans, although not a good starting place.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 Anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print is of a good quality, with minimal damage for the most part,
but some notable damage in a couple of scenes. Always watchable.