Walking with “Aguirre”

I love long takes.

I love collecting them; cataloging them; comparing-and-contrasting them. I love watching and re-watching my own personal favorites, and I’m always scanning the InterWebs in an endless quest for newer, even more bravura examples. In fact, it might well be my second-favorite cinematic hobby of all time, right after collecting, cataloging, comparing, and contrasting film scores. (And no, I’m not quite sure if more accurate to call them hobbies or obsessions. That’s for you to know. And for me to figure out. …though I do have sneaking suspicions.)

So, I’m sure the fact that this long opening shot from Aguirre, the Wrath of God popped into my head as I walked to work this morning makes perfect sense.

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Yep, that’s what I thought. Perfect sense.

Yes, it’s been a long work week. And the fact that this sort of thing is floating around in my head for such easy recall probably tips the scales a wee bit towards the “obsession” side. But it’s the perfect opening to the film, both aesthetically and philosophically. So it’s not just me.

But I can’t think about that right now; I’m too focused on Popol Vuh’s contributions to the film. Theirs is the sort of score that seems like it would be incredibly dated. Yet somehow, it strikes me as timeless rather than time-bound, dovetailing (bizarrely yet smoothly) with a a 16th-century Spanish conquistador’s search for El Dorado.  I can’t quite put my finger on why, though it’s probably the overwhelming sense of insanity. (Take note, Oliver Stone.)

Oops. I’m guessing that did more than just tip the scales…

…and I’ll be quiet now. It’s getting too weird in here.

This post had been brought to you by Burden of Dreams. While not a documentary about the making of Aguirre itself, it is an eye-opening documentary about the same director — Werner Herzog — an dhis attempts to undertake a strikingly similar cinematic endeavor: the almost-impossible making of Fitzcarraldo. Crazy, fascinating stuff, and available for streaming from Hulu+. You know what to do.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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