The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The taming of the untamable actor

with 18 comments

It’s usually the horse with the scariest look that wins the show jumping competition.

Can you see it in front of you? Its nostrils has gotten a life of their own, the eyes have a crazy look and it’s so full of energy that you expect it to self ignite and explode in a thousand pieces any minute.

If the rider manages to figure out how to interact with this monster of a horse, dancing with it rather than forcing it to subordination, it will win the competition. But if he doesn’t you know it will end in disaster.

The thought struck me more than once that the German actor Klaus Kinski reminds me of this type of horse when I watched Werner Herzog’s documentary, My Best Fiend.

This film is nothing like an ordinary biography starting at the birth, ending at the grave, with some highlighted spots of interest along the way, like education, tops in the career and family events. The angle is completely different, focusing on the relationship between Herzog and Kinski.

To call it turbulent would be an understatement. Kinski’s outbursts of rage in front of the camera are of the magnitude that I could swear that seismographs will register it as minor earthquakes. His eyes tell you that he might smash the entire film set and all the people that are around into pieces any minute, unless Herzog once again will find a way to communicate with him, convincing this horse to use his inbuilt power to jump the obstacle rather than destroying everything that comes in his way.

I love the approach to the topic. While a little slow at times, there are also some really beautiful moments in it, moments of closeness between Kinski and Herzog and moments where Kinski show other sides than just the rage, tenderly playing with a butterfly.

The only drawback was that the copy that was screened at my local film club contained a lot of material that was dubbed from German to English, which was completely pointless and only annoying, since we watch it with subtitles anyway.

If I’ve managed to tickle your interest for this film and you consider watching it, I strongly suggest you to choose a version with the original German sound, provided it’s an option.

My Best Fiend (Mein liebster Feind – Klaus Kinski, Werner Herzog, GE, 1999) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

September 19, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in My Best Fiend

18 Responses

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  1. Klinski always struck me as a high maintenance actor… I would love to see this DOC

  2. Sounds interesting Jessica. Kinski is indeed a ferocious looking man. I’ll keep my eye out for this.

    Mark Walker

    September 19, 2012 at 10:26 am

    • Do so. It’s intriguing – and rose my lust to watch Kinski’s movies. I’ve seen a couple, but it was long ago. I’d love to see for instance Fitzcarraldo again.

      Jessica

      September 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm

  3. Have seen many Herzog documentaries, but not this one yet…hope I’ll be able to see it in the future…

    Nostra

    September 19, 2012 at 11:09 am

    • It’s definitely worth looking up, particularly if you like Klaus Kinski.

      Jessica

      September 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

  4. I have both Aguirre and Fitzcaraldo in my collection but have never actually seen them. I really need to remedy that. I’ve been wanting to see watch them for ages but have never quite found the right moment.

    Mark Walker

    September 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    • I have yet to see Aguirre, but hopefully I’m getting around to it later this autumn as my local film club is screening it (we have a Herzog theme). I really got inspired by seeing this documentary. Kinski is one of his kind.

      Jessica

      September 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    • They’re both great movies. I especially liked Fitzcaraldo. A madman playing a madman?

      carrandas

      September 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      • It was a perfect fit. I can’t think of anyone else that would be more suitable for the role.

        Jessica

        September 21, 2012 at 7:53 am

  5. There are better actors, more talented ones, more charming, more versatile, but no one ever as intense as Kinski. and out of all the directors he worked with in over a hundred films, only Herzog was ever able to figure him out.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    September 20, 2012 at 3:34 am

    • Yes, it really seems as a fortunate teaming-up. I was surprised when I looked at IMDb to see how many other movies Kinski appeared in. He was very productive. But it’s the Herzog ones that remain in the memory of the public I think.

      Jessica

      September 20, 2012 at 7:27 am

  6. I liked My Best Fiend just fine. It’s an interesting subject to make a documentary on. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t getting a full or fair story. Obviously, Kinski can’t offer his take on the relationship, but this leaves the window open for Herzog to spin the story any way he wants to, whether actively or subconsciously. I would instead like to see a documentary on the Herzog-Kinski relationship made by a third party.

    Emil

    September 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    • It’s not one way or the other to me. I liked this take. But yes, it would be interesting to see one from Kinski’s point of view, though that is impossible now, sadly.

      Jessica

      September 21, 2012 at 7:50 am

  7. The Kinski/Herzog collab is one of my favorite film relationships of all time. I love the movies they did together, and I love all of the hyperbolic drama that occurred off screen. Kinski was just nuts, but damn if he didn’t put out solid work.

    Alex Withrow

    September 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    • Indeed. When I think of the younger stars of today they seem incredibly bland in comparsion.

      Jessica

      September 21, 2012 at 7:50 am

  8. Great post. Liked the horse analogy. The movie sounds very interesting.

    fernandorafael

    September 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    • Thanks Fernando! I definitely recommend it. It will increase your interest in seeing Kinski/Herzog movies, unless you’ve already seen them.

      Jessica

      September 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm


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