Country: WEST GERMANY
Werner Herzog is well known for his daring approach to filmmaking and for his commitment to taking risks in service of his never ending search for the ‘ecstatic truth’ within an image. But in many ways his boldest filmmaking move occurred during 1978/9 when he made two films back to back that were based on pre-existing material highly venerated in Germany. The first was a remake of F.W. Murnau’s silent expressionistic horror classic Nosferatu (1922) with Klaus Kinski playing the eponymous bloodsucker. The second was the trickier proposition of adapting Georg Buchner’s unfinished play Woyzeck - a demanding work requiring the steely nerve of a major actor to cope with the harrowing treatment the character endures. With just a week off after the completion of shooting on Nosferatu Kinski stepped up to the plate and 18 days later the shooting of Woyzeck was complete and Kinski was able to have his nervous breakdown in peace. The speed with which the film was completed has to be admired and shows an economy of filmmaking from Herzog which has remained unrepeated. To add yet more exhaustion and trauma to the characterisation of Woyzeck Herzog insisted on extremely long unbroken takes - there are in fact only 27 cuts in the whole movie! While this was undoubtedly a major challenge to the actors, it enabled Kinski to probably give the greatest performance of his career.