Skip to main content

Cobra Verde by Werner Herzog

Having recently read and reviewed the novel 'The Viceroy of Ouidah' by Bruce Chatwin, I sought out a film adaptation on LoveFilm. What I found was a German-language film called 'Cobra Verde' directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski as Don Francisco Manoel da Silva.

The film, as with the novel, starts in Brazil. We see a dusty and desolate land ravaged by drought. The near silence during those opening scenes followed by the snarling expression on Kinski's face serves well to set the scene for what is, for all intents and purposes, a very dark tale. The sense of foreboding in Kinski's face, though, does not then prepare you for how two-dimensional the film's characters  and story line become.

Chatwin's novel, as I have discussed previously, does remarkably well to weave such a rich tapestry of characters into such a small number of words. Herzog's film falls short of this. Rather than seeing the complexities of da Silva's character and life evolving over the course of the film, we are presented with Kinski's maniacal snarling interspersed with minutes of near-silent mumbling.

It is interesting that this film, although wonderfully shot, is called "masterful adaptation of Chatwin's novel" as it deviates so wildly from the novel at times, and yet borrows from the narrative quite closely at others. Perhaps the representation of the King of Dahomey, in all his eccentricity is best captured, but even this character falls flat, just when the audience feels that they are beginning to get a clue about him.

To round things off, there are the almost gratuitous scenes of bare breasted African females, playing the role of the Dahomey amazon warriors, followed by a half-naked choir of teenage girls. Yes, there was a regiment of amazons in Dahomey, but their depiction in this film seems at odds with history.

The deviations from the excellent novel text are too frequent and so, if we forget that the film is meant to be an adaptation and judge the film on its merits as a film, then I think that this film is as schizophrenic as Kinski's portrayal of da Silva. Herzog, revered by many as a a great director, has in my opinion got this film wrong and any praise should go to the cameramen on this production for some beautiful cinematography.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

Cover image. © Penguin Books. I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English. From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together). She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing. In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the w

The Bakiga Window: Taufiq Islamic Primary School: Part II

In a manner so typically Ugandan, Yasim approaches silently and politely asks whether he can have a word with me – it is one of those ironies that a word has to be had in order to have a word with someone. Irony aside, he has heard back from the Sheikh and arranged an appointment for me. It is Wednesday 20 th April and once more I find myself en route to Taufiq Islamic Primary School. The morning started in the usual way: waking up sleepy students, ensuring that everyone had 'taken' breakfast and had a supply of bottled water, and then walking with the group down the hill, into the town. At the foot of the hill, the group scattered into many fragments, with everyone off in search of their own adventures. I head straight on, past the noise of the metal workers, over to Taufiq. After having had to beat a hasty retreat last week , I was unsure of who would be in my reception committee. Teacher Bright was the first to greet me, before taking me inside to m

Beach Huts, Southwold, Suffolk

Sleeping beach huts on Southwold Beach, Suffolk. Safely back from my annual visit to Rotterdam, my parents invited me to spend a few days with them in a small holiday cottage in Southwold, Suffolk. Give or take driving through Newmarket a few years back when studying at Anglia Ruskin University, I'd never really seen much of the county. Southwold itself is a beautiful seaside resort which happens to be the home of Adnams , a well known brewery, which means that for a small place there are a healthy number of pubs - suddenly Dad's choice of location made sense . On the early afternoon of Wednesday 20th February  I took a walk to the Harbour Inn to meet my parents for lunch. The pub was just under two miles away from Grace Cottage , where we were staying. This gave me the opportunity to take some pictures of the sea. On our way towards the see we also spotted  Georgie Glen  from Waterloo Road humming happily to herself on the High Street. Southwold is lovely,