Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Aguirre: The Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes) (1972) >>

0:00:00 The mission
Opening text sets the stage. In 1560, after the conquest of the Incas, a large Spanish force sets out to find El Dorado, a land of gold invented by the Indians. A diary is the only record of this lost expedition.
0:00:35 The mountain
From a great distance we see the almost indistinguishable Spanish force winding its way down a mountain. As the camera comes closer and becomes almost part of the expedition, we are introduced visually to the characters and realize the precariousness of the descent.
0:05:15 Going under
At the foot of the mountain, a talk between Pizarro and Aguirre creates the tension for the plot -- Pizarro optimistic that the travel will be easier, Aguirre prophesying that they will "go under."
0:05:56 The river
A longish shot of the angry, seemingly unnavigable river punctuates the conversation between the two leaders of the expedition.
0:06:47 The jungle
The dense jungle severely impedes travel and tempers flare at the intractability of nature to their progress. Every step is a battle.
0:09:29 Pizarro's plan
Facing the reality of expedition failure, Pizarro divides the group in two, sending one group under the leadership of Ursua (with his wife Inez), Aguirre (with his daughter Flora), Caravajal, and Guzman ahead to reconnoiter, telling them to report back to the main force in a week. If they do not return, Pizarro will consider them lost and the expedition at an end.
0:13:19 The river again
Ursua's party takes to the river in rafts -- sometimes smooth sailing, sometimes rough.
0:16:50 The eddy
One of the rafts is trapped in an eddy as the others watch helplessly from the shore. Ursua forms a plan to save them, Aguirre once again is pessimistic -- thinking Ursua crazy. The rift between Ursua and Aguirre builds.
0:19:10 Waiting on shore
A series of scenes on shore delineate two different worlds: Inez and Flora dressing and primping, a soldier tending a horse, Caravajal meditating, soldiers building a shelter contrast with the plight of the men on the trapped raft.
0:20:15 Night on the river
Those on shore see firing on the raft at night and wonder whether it's a signal or a battle.
0:20:45 What the morning reveals
The men on the raft are dead, killed by Indians. On the way back, one of the members of the rescue party is ensnared by the Indians and killed.
0:22:52 Burial?
Ursua wants to retrieve the bodies for proper burial, but Aguirre arranges to have the raft sunk by a cannon shot. The tension between them rises even higher.
0:24:50 Family conference
Ursua and Inez discuss their situation and Aguirre's actions. Inez sees the threat he poses, but Ursua feels that Aguirre would never rebel.
0:25:32 Family man
A tender Aguirre gives his daughter a cute little sloth.
0:25:55 The river rises
An overnight rising of the river takes the expedition by surprise, and they lose much of their supplies and rafts. On his own, Aguirre orders work details designed to keep the trip going, exacerbating the already high tension with Ursua.
0:29:20 Rebellion
Ursua announces a retreat, Aguirre confronts him. Ursua is mortally wounded and another soldier killed as Aguirre assumes control through outright violence. The rest of the men ultimately seem satisfied as long as El Dorado is the goal.
0:32:23 Musical interlude
An Inca flute player's happy, bouncy serenade seems out of place in a scene that contains the brooding Aguirre, a pensive captive, and Inez nursing Ursua.
0:33:55 Cowardly Caravajal
Inez pleads for Caravajal to do something, as her last resort -- Caravajal rationalizes his refusal.
0:35:15 Join us
Aguirre gives the captive the opportunity to join the rebels.
0:36:06 A new leader
Aguirre engineers the election of Guzman as the new leader of the expedition.
0:37:33 The Indian side
Inca Runo Rimac, now Balthasar, tells his sad story of conquest and enslavement to Inez and Flora, ominously declaring that there is no way out of the jungle.
0:38:40 Caring for the captive
Inez feeds the engaged loyal soldier.
0:39:33 Declaration of Independence
Caravajal reads a document prepared by Aguirre declaring that the group has broken with Spain.
0:42:02 The captive escapes
The imprisoned loyalist has escaped and killed a guard in the process.
0:43:52 Trial preparation
Aguirre encourages Guzman to kill Ursua.
0:44:35 The trial
Caravajal conducts the trial and finds Ursua guilty and sentences him to death. But Guzman commutes the sentence, to Aguirre's disgust, heightening tension between Aguirre and the new leader.
0:48:07 Cannibals
After going back on the river, the expedition raids a deserted Indian village that shows signs of cannabalistic activity.
0:51:51 Slow motion
Back on the river, the raft barely moves now, and the atmosphere is claustrophobic. Tension is high. Inez challenges Aguirre, who takes his frustration out on the horse.
0:54:05 Tension
On the barely moving river again. Indians are spotted on shore. The horse goes rammy, and the gunpowder is set on fire. In the confusion, Guzman has to be rescued from the water and one of the soldiers is killed by a small arrow.
0:57:31 Music again
Aguirre prods the Inca to provide musical diversion again. The music is also again out of place among the stone faces of Aguirre, Ursua, Inez, and Flora.
0:58:58 The Yagua
An Indian man and woman come to the boat, indicating that there has been a prophesy about their arrival in this forsaken land that God never finished. The Indian's gold necklace awakens the lust for El Dorado. Caravajal asks about knowledge of Jesus and offers the Bible as the word of God. The Indian throws the book down, however, and pays for his blasphemy with his life.
1:03:06 Looking ahead
Guzman, Okello, and Caravajal talk about what reaching El Dorado will mean to them.
1:04:25 Possession
Prefaced by a trip to the outhouse, Guzman enacts the rite of possession, staking claim to all the land they are passing. Aguirre's cynicism punctuates the scene.
1:06:05 Meal time
Guzman eats royally while the soldiers count pecks of corn. The horse interrupts his meal, and he has it thrown overboard, where it stares compellingly back at the travelers.
1:10:15 Another murder
Guzman found dead.
1:11:54 The end of Ursua
With Guzman gone, Ursua is taken to shore and hanged.
1:14:25 Meat
Back on the river, Indians they pass refer to the group as meat floating by. The Spaniards attack the village. Inez walks into the jungle, never to return.
1:17:59 Wrath of God
In the aftermath of the battle, Aguirre punishes a traitor and makes it very clear what will happen to future ones: I am the Wrath of God.
1:21:02 Music yet again
While the Inca plays, a rat prepares to make a meal on the cute pet sloth, a beautiful butterfly provides a contrast, man and nature seem virtually becalmed. The Inca looks right into the camera when he is done.
1:22:40 Activity
The lull is disrupted by the raft scraping along the shore and Indian attack that kills several soldiers.
1:23:22 Mexico was no illusion
Caravajal confronts Aguirre with their failure to find El Dorado, but Aguirre holds on to the dream, offering that Mexico was no illusion, and sliding into a monologue that reveals that power and fame is what he's after, despising the men who measure success by gold.
1:25:14 On the prowl
Aguirre prowls among the torpid community on the raft, poking and prodding.
1:27:15 The tree'd ship
Okello sees a ship in a tree, spurring conversation about fantasy and reality and signaling the hallucinatory state of the expedition. Aguirre sees it as real, as we do, and useful to them.
1:28:25 Is it real?
The hallucination quandary continues when Indians attack. But the arrows are all too real as Flora is struck and lapses into a catatonic state.
1:30:17 Monkey business
The raft is taken over by monkeys as Aguirre paces around his dwindled domain in fervent soliloquy about his plans and goals for conquering all of New Spain and establishing the purest race ever. "I am the wrath of God . . . Who else is with me?"
1:32:50 The still point
The camera circles the raft on which Aguirre is the only one standing and the only motion is monkey motion.