Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Revisit: Cobra Verde

An Anchor Bay release 1987

Written & Directed by Werner Herzog

Based on the novel by Bruce Chatwin

In the Nineteenth Century, feared bandit Francisco Manoel da Silva (Cobra Verde) is sent to Almeria, in the West of Africa, to negotiate for slaves with the crazy African King Abomey, as opposition towards the trade grows.

This film is a tough one, especially for Herzog, who tries to combine his typical 'portrait of the insane' with the beauty of nature while discussing the most deplorable African slave trade. Klaus Kinski plays the bandit Cobra Verde -- his atypical step-behind-the-times-totally-batshit-crazy type character -- who is injected into the slave trade at the end of it's run. Language plays a major theme, as it does in many of Herzog's films -- the film stresses the difficulty of global communication in the 19th century and deals with cross-cultural miscommunication and misunderstanding. But ultimately the film suffers from the weight of its subject matter -- it can't help escape a sort of 'been there, done that' feeling for all the major players, and the deplorable nature of the slave trade overshadows the struggles of the titular character, no matter how insane we already know he may be. Aside from the fantastic end sequence (which I've posted below), and some gorgeous shots of the African landscape and peoples, the film fails to tread any new ground for it's director or performer.

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