Pass the Remote: Herzog-Kinski films at PFA 

Collaborations between actor Klaus Kinski, pictured in “Cobra Verde,” and director Werner Herzog produced five memorable films and havoc on the set. (Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

Among this year’s highlights for Bay Area movie buffs was the November appearance of Werner Herzog at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The highly regarded, prolific 81-year-old German filmmaker visited as part of the PFA’s extensive retrospective on his versatile career, which includes documentaries and narrative features. Screenings he attended sold out fast.  

The good news is that “Infinite Horizons: The Films of Werner Herzog,” which offers opportunities to visit or revisit some of his greats, extends through the end of February.  

This week, Pass the Remote shines a light on films that paired Herzog with the unhinged but skilled actor Klaus Kinski as well as shares information about the return of a well-received Turkish movie from SFFFILM 2023.  

As Robert Eggers’ eagerly awaited “Nosferatu” is slated for arrival in theaters Dec. 25, 2024, now is the time to sink your teeth into Herzog’s version, “Nosferatu the Vampyre.” The 1979 film marked Herzog’s first Hollywood studio project and features a classic turn from Kinski as the legendary bloodsucker. Tapping a rich vein for fans of moody, atmospheric horror fare, it costars Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz and Roland Topor. It screens at 7 p.m. Dec. 9. 

The talented but turbulently tempered Kinski teamed with Herzog for five features: the aforementioned “Nosferatu,” “Aguirre, The Wrath of God,” “Woyzeck,” “Fitzcarraldo” and “Cobra Verde.” All received high praise. But what was the experience like working with the magnetic star who battled mental illness and made life on the set a challenge? Often it was pure hell, as Herzog’s warts-and-all documentary “My Brilliant Fiend” so jaw-droppingly details. Their volatile relationship produced taunts and death threats, weathered major highs and dangerous lows, yet also led some memorable, now classic, films. But it was never easy. “Fiend” screens at 2 p.m. Dec. 10. 

What does it take to bring an opera house to a jungle in Peru? How about a big riverboat and an obsessed fat cat (Kinski) backing it and orchestrating the whole crazy deal? Herzog’s acclaimed 1982 epic “Fitzcarraldo,” based on actual events, features one of the most intense action sequences ever put on film: an actual riverboat getting tugged over a mountain. Prepare to chew those fingernails. Herzog amazingly did it without special effects, a radical spectacle that’s breathtaking and audacious and renders you speechless, particularly in this day of overused computer effects. It screens at 7 p.m. Dec. 15.  

The one film I’m most eager to see in this batch is 1987’s “Cobra Verde,” the final and lesser-known entry from the Herzog and Kinski partnership. It’s also one of their most tumultuous shoots with an out-of-control Kinski threatening others on the set. Kinski’s temperament perhaps fueled his performance playing a, you guessed it, deranged 19th-century Brazilian criminal and slave trader. Although the film didn’t get as many glowing reviews as Herzog’s and Kinski’s other movies, their signatures — searing intensity and a lead character driven to madness — were well-noted. It screens at 7 p.m. Dec. 20.  

For details on the full Herzog program, visit

Selcen Egun’s “Snow and the Bear,” a Turkish film starring Merve Dizdar, screens again in Berkeley after picking up an award at the 2023 SFFILM fest. (Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

In addition to the Herzog films, at 7 p.m. Thursday, PFA will screen Selcen Ergun’s debut feature “Snow and the Bear,” which played in Berkeley in the SFFILM 2023 program and garnered its filmmaker the New Directors Award and developed a big following. Set in Turkey, the movie has earned raves for succeeding as both a mystery and a drama. The mystery centers on a vanishing in an isolated community where temperatures are below zero, while the drama concentrates on a nurse who is suspected in connection with the disappearance. Expect to experience the chill of its setting and message. For details, visit Snow and the Bear | BAMPFA.  

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