Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

We were just watching Werner Herzog’s documentary My Best Friend about his relationship with the quite demented Klaus Kinski. A chronicle of films they made together, traced and noted mainly by Kinski’s completely unreasonable behaviour and fits and outbursts of madness and delusion. Herzog remarks on the first time he saw Kinski playing a solider at age 15 in a film and a moment where Kinski is woken up, lifts his head from a table and comes to.  It was this scene that Herzog was mesmorised by. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the scene (Herzog admits the scene that follows it seems much more vital to him now). I found it affecting his observance of this. How we chronicle things as remarkable in a moment, that on re-examination prove far from what they were in that moment or you can never find again what within them was so remarkable.

Herzog is insightful about tracking Kinski’s most unreasonable, crazed outbursts and he describes how Kinski could not stand it when something happened, that moved him from the centre of attention and this would inevitably trigger an outburst from him. There’s a section of the film that shows Kinski insulting the production manager on the film. He’s relentless with his insults. He flails his arms and body about, he walks up the hill and comes back and still he raves at the more reasonable man, who replies with much more effective insults. And still Kinski continues on, escalating and pushing as far as he can, to the extent the top of his head should fly open and whatever group of birds trapped inside should fly away.

Instead on Kinski goads, on he bullies, on he issues his tirades, until Herzog reflects the Peruvian Indian extras working on the film generously offer to kill him. Herzog declines, but admits later how he had planned to firebomb his house.

The film attempted to chronicle or record how Kinski’s intensity could translate in other ways, but it was rather lost on me. He has an intense, interesting face, but after all that godforsaken stamping and abuse, who the hell could be much bothered looking at it?! If there’s a trail of destruction and abuse of others in your wake as you veer towards manifesting your genius — I’d have to wonder if the world could be happily spared it.

There were several times where Herzog asked the question why he put up with it? He didn’t entirely answer it. Rather he leaves the reminder that there are some deeply unpleasant people in the world.  A striking thing about Kinski in this portrait was how devoid of a sense of humour he was.

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