In a 19th century village in Germany lives a soldier named Franz Woyzeck. He is a naïve fellow, a poor man with deep sentiments. Haunted by strange voices, ordered about by commanding officers, and experimented on by the town doctor, he begins to suspect his lover of grave infidelity…
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Herzog's take on the Woyzeck story was his third brilliant collaboration with madman/actor Klaus Kinski and resulted in this mesmerizing film that may pale in scope compared to their other collaborations but still has an extreme power over the viewer. Kinski is brilliant here in a performance of inner turmoil, ticks and anxieties. Also of note is the Cannes winning supporting turn by Eva Mattes.
Herzog uses the ponderous long-takes to give full attention to Kinski's frantic and magnetic on-screen presence. The intensity of Kinski's eyes and facial expressions give the entire film a teetering sense of mystery and insanity—culminating with the surreal moment when Woyzeck finally breaks.
A world still dumbwitted by religion. Woyzeck struggles with the delusions he has to deal with while being experimented upon by a fraudulent doctor dabbling in scientific language like an idiot and also struggles with morality on an existential basis of poverty and of natural life rather than a legal/lawful flow of life. But he is not strong enough to bear the immense responsibility of life upon his own shoulders.
Perhaps Herzog/Kinski's slightest feature—like an experiment or a sketchbook, working another variation on the madness of civilization and its total inability to control irrational natural instinct. There are moments of real beauty, and this may actually contain the best performance Kinski ever gave Herzog: the subtlest, the most controlled, the ticking (if mad) human mind before the total eruption.
Interesting, but not one of the better pairings of Herzog and Kinski. Kinski gives another one of his great trademark intense performances, and the material allows Herzog a number of moments of his surrealist wit, but it pales in comparison to their other masterpieces. Still, well worth watching for Herzog fans.
While certainly not one of the highlights of Herzog and Kinski's (un)holy collaborative canon, the murder of Woyzeck's wife is surely one of the most beautiful and terrible images in any of their five films together.
Recommended but not essential. Klaus Kinski is captivating in his character's decent into madness and Herzog's direction is also great. The movie itself isn't as great as the sum of its parts (If that makes any sense) and despite the 80-minute running time, Woyzeck was a pretty grueling watch. As much as I got into it, I don't feel like I ever need to see it again.