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Showing posts from January, 2011

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 cha

The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin

When you pick up this book it is hard to believe that such a thin text will, simply speaking, have such a gripping storyline full of genuine intrigue for the reader. In a mere 100 pages the novel goes full circle in a space of time that some novels take just to get going. The story centres around Francisco Manuel da Silva, a Brazilian, who, after having come from relative poverty in his native land, finds wealth in the Kingdom of Dahomey - modern day Bénin - as a slaver. The story is not a straightforward rags-to-riches tale, instead it highlights the ugliness of the protagonist's character and trade as he goes about befriending the eccentric King of Dahomey, before things begin to fall apart for him.  By the end of the text you are left unsure as to whether one should feel pity or feel relieved that da Silva's sordid existence has come to an end. Some might argue that the novel does not do enough to highlight the dark manner in which da Silva makes his fortune, but I think