Review: Woyzeck (1979)


Hey, Klaus Kinski playing yet another crazy character, what a surprise!

Written By: Werner Herzog
Directed By: Werner Herzog

It took me a few tries, but I have finally found a Werner Herzog film that I didn’t fall in love with right from the start. Woyzeck is a film that wants to say something, but it never really finds the tune it wants to say it in or comes to grips with what it wants to say. Some of this does fall on Klaus Kinski and his portrayal of Woyzeck. Relax, I know I differ from popular opinion in regards to his performance in this film. I liked Woyzeck and it did give me something to think about but I never felt like I was watching a complete film.

This is another Kinski/Herzog collaboration, and for my money it is the weakest I have seen so far. Kinski’s performance isn’t bad, it’s just that it’s something I’ve seen from him before. It’s a disturbing trend I have noticed with Kinski, that no matter what film he is in he has to play a man who is a bit off of his rocker. Kinski does do a great job of putting insanity on the screen for all to see, but there are too many moments where I have to stop myself and say, I have seen him do this before.

Is Woyzeck a treatise on insanity? Does it dissect the way society can run a man down and drive him past his breaking point? The answer to the above two questions is, maybe? Herzog does leave the answers to any questions Woyzeck raises in the hands of the viewer, but I never felt compelled to follow any of the questions through to find an answer. In the end that was my biggest gripe with Woyzeck, for all the ideas it presented it never gave me a compelling enough reason to go the rest of the way with the characters or the story.

There were other minor quibbles, the slow motion ending didn’t really work for me, but they were minor. There are moments when Woyzeck has an absurd comic quality to it and that I greatly enjoyed. I did enjoy the questions that were being raised, the look at insanity or a society that would treat a man in such a way. I realize that based on what I wrote in the first few paragraphs it sounds like I found very little to like about Woyzeck, but that isn’t the case. I liked the ground work that Herzog laid, I just wish he would have given me a reason to seek out the finished building.

There you have it, the first Herzog film that I wasn’t head over heels in love with. I liked Woyzeck, but it doesn’t have the highs that Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes, Stroszek or Fitzcarraldo do, nor did it impact me as deeply as those films did. I would recommend Woyzeck only for the die hard Herzog fans, or Kinski fans, otherwise it’s a decent watch if you stumble across it but not a film you need to go out of your way to see.




One response to “Review: Woyzeck (1979)

  1. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Directing Props, Pt. 2! | Bill's Movie Emporium

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