Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jesus Christ Saviour (2008)

In November 1971 actor Klaus Kinski decided he wanted to go on a speaking tour and present his piece Jesus Christ Savior to audiences. Kinski hadn’t appeared on stage in almost ten years and had in that time developed the reputation he still has, that of an intense, crazed actor who was impossible to work with. Many in the audience who showed up that night was hoping to see the man in action and if he wasn’t going to give them what they wanted they were ready to provoke him.

As Kinski strode to the stage the audience began to heckle him. As Kinski began to speak the heckles got worse and over the course of the evening Kinski struggled to say his piece while the audience tried to get him to react. When the night ended after 2 AM Kinski and the few remaining audience members were spent and in between the madness some magic was created.

This is the film record of what happened that night. Put together from the surviving audio recording and the recently found film of the event this is a one of a kind film experience. Rarely has any film ever forced us to stare into the heart of a performer the way this film does. Much of the recitation is front and center staring directly into Kinski’s face. There are few cutaways (during the performance) only Kinski telling a story of Jesus which is much more touching than you would expect.

The few times the film cuts away is during the interactions with the audience, as members climb on stage to speak to Kinski or as they shout at the misplaced object of their hatred

Reading on the event it seems the audience had a different idea about what they were going to see. Kinski, the rich and famous actor and noted madman was in their eyes over stepping his bounds. In choosing to perform a piece entitled Jesus Christ Savior was, in their eyes, his making himself out to be God. And in the waning days of the peace and love of the late 1960’s that sort of perceived hubris wasn’t going to stand. They went in with knives drawn looking for blood.

The sad thing is that the text of Kinski’s talk is deeply moving and very touching. It is a very much a summing up of the peace and love movement and of Jesus’s believed words. Kinski is trying to blend the old with the new and make us think about what would Jesus do if he were here today. Kinski’s performance of it is shattering and it’s sadly ruined by the people in the audience who refused to let Kinski speak. To me it’s one of the most spiritual things I’ve ever run across and I think had they sat and listened to Kinski they would have been moved and would have changed their minds and they would have understood what he was really getting at. (Kinski is quoted as saying that the mob at the show was worse than the Pharisees since at least the Pharisees let Jesus speak before they nailed him to the cross.)

The film that has been put out is real trip. In its way it probably one of the best concert films ever produced simply because it puts you into the middle of a one of a kind event in away that almost no film has. The effect is stunning and infuriating since you will very much want to move away from the road of peace and hurt the hecklers and the nuts who leap on stage. It’s a film that has both the best of the evening and the worst. The clash of the two extremes makes for an uneven experience but one that is worth seeing. I think that when Kinski finally gets to finish his talk in the company of 100 or so people who have stayed and moved to the foot of the stage, you will be strangely moved. (The finale takes place after the end credits so don’t turn off the DVD until the end)

Currently out on a regionless PAL DVD available as an import. Definitely worth looking for.

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