Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski | Still

My Best Fiend

Saturday, August 13

One screening only!

“When the actor Klaus Kinski wrote his autobiography, he referred to Werner Herzog as ‘the vermin,’ ‘this blowhard’ and ‘a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep.’ And those were some of the nicer things he had to say. Now Mr. Herzog has a chance to return the favor with MY BEST FIEND: KLAUS KINSKI, an account of their unbelievably turbulent collaboration and how each man tormented and goaded the other into doing his best work.

‘Every gray hair on my head I call Kinski,’ Mr. Herzog tells the camera during this captivating documentary, a film that serves as an eloquent coda to their unforgettable creative partnership. It doesn’t take long to see what he means about the hair. From the day he and Kinski, who died in 1991 at the age of 65, met as boys in the same boardinghouse, the wear and tear that accompanied the fierce Kinski temperament was apparent. ‘I never thought anyone could rave for 48 hours,’ the filmmaker reflects, remembering an incident in which the budding actor locked himself in a bathroom and reduced it to smithereens. He also recalls when Kinski threw two hot potatoes and some cutlery at a theater critic who had failed to praise him sufficiently. In the context of the film’s reminiscences, this does not sound like an atypical event.

…Mr. Herzog uses the documentary not only to summon amazing Kinski stories but also to contemplate the actor’s authentic (if erratic) genius. In Aguirre, he says, ‘somehow the beast had been domesticated after all, so that his true madness, his true energy was contained within the frame of a screen image.’ Anyone who has seen that film will recognize the understatement in this. Meanwhile, MY BEST FIEND switches gears easily among from Mr. Herzog’s nostalgic observations, film clips of the finished work and documentary scenes that chronicle behind-the-scenes turmoil. In Machu Picchu to shoot Aguirre, Kinski is seen ignoring the director’s suggestions and announcing: ‘You have to beg me. Even David Lean did that.’ (The actor turned up in Dr. Zhivago.) ‘And Brecht, too.'” –New York Times

Image ©Werner Herzog Film

Part of the series Ecstatic Truths: Documentaries by Herzog

  • Country Germany/UK/USA
  • Year 1999
  • Running Time 95 minutes
  • Director Werner Herzog