Saturday, 14 March 2009

Behaviour of the saviour

The documentary I made reference to in the previous post, was Jesus Christus Erlöser - Jesus Christ Saviour - a film of a one-man performance by Klaus Kinski, delivering a rather impassioned monologue of his account of the life of Christ to a large audience in a rather grand concert hall in West Berlin.

There's something very stark about it, focused as it is on one man under the glare of spotlights against an otherwise dark background. Already there is a palpable air of tension as he steps onto the stage. Kinski's features are incredibly distinctive, and his face is set in an expression of determination and, seemingly, defiance. Rendered in grainy film with amazing colour saturation, the image is a memorable and arresting one.

His voice echoes throughout the hall as he begins his monologue: fervent, intense, more than a little grandiose, interspersed with heavy pauses as he casts his glance downwards and gathers himself to continue.

Pretty soon however, there are scattered murmurings and mutterings from members of the audience, many of whom are finding it hard to treat this performance with the reverence that seems to be expected of them. Kinski continues, though not before fixing these dissenters with a stare of astonishing, withering malevolence.

After another short pause as he prepares to carry on, cries from the audience are gaining momentum.


Kinski is by now seething, eyes wide, hardly containing his rage amidst such provocation, and finally explodes, barking words to the effect that they should either have the guts to come up on stage or shut the fuck up.

From thereon it continues quickly into chaos, and over the course of the next hour or so we see him variously jeered, applauded (sometimes sincerely, sometimes ironically), harangued, challenged and baited. He responds with fury, sarcasm, boiling rage, and on more than one occasion he storms off the stage.

I found myself watching the whole thing with my hands over my mouth, just astonished. I know very little about Kinski, or what his motivations were for standing alone on stage delivering the story of Christ - but it was clear that many in the audience were of the opinion that he was casting himself as a messianic figure, and this formed the basis of their umbrage. The section during which he intones/interprets Christ's words about hypocrites being a particular case in point: he must surely have known - perhaps relished - that he was setting himself up for confrontation.

To get a flavour of it - though here without the subtitles - there are some short trailers on the official site. It might not be everyone's cup of tea for a night out at the movies, but it has really left an impact on me.