Here is Klaus Kinski’s inspired, sublime, psychotic and fearlessly confrontational performance of Jesus Christ Savior with English subtitles. Working from footage shot in 1971, Kinski biographer and film director Peter Geyer reconstructs the infamous night in which Kinski psychically assaults and provokes an audience of 5000 curiosity seekers at a concert hall in Berlin. What was intended to be the first night of an extended tour ended in a theatrical crash, burn and resurrection of almost Biblical proportions. Kinski is to theater what punk rock is to music. God bless his tormented and beautiful soul.
You know from his opening words ‘Wanted: Jesus Christ, for anarchistic tendencies’ that Kinski’s spin on the messiah story is going to be an interesting one. Standing alone on the stage in complete darkness save for the light of a single spotlight shining directly on him, Kinski elaborates on his subject but soon becomes increasingly irate when the audience tries to speak over him. As the tension builds between audience and performer, Kinski notes that Christ did not have a big mouth, unlike some of the ‘pigs’ in the audience.
It becomes increasingly obvious that the vast majority of people who paid ‘ten marks’ to get in did so just to cause trouble. The audience becomes increasingly antagonistic towards Kinski, who responds in kind and eventually screams at them and launches a microphone stand off of the stage. He exits, and a promoter comes out and asks the troublemakers to leave. Kinski then returns to a group of roughly a hundred people, and once again tries to deliver his monologue, but it’s obvious that the anger he feels is overpowering him and the message he intended to deliver is lost.
As all of this plays out in front of the camera, we feel the political tensions that were brewing in Germany at the time. Kinski is frequently called a fascist by members of the audience, most of whom are younger hippy types obviously rebelling against the far right politics of the generation that preceded them. Kinksi’s bursts of anger only add fuel to this fire, and it’s fascinating to watch it all spiral out of control and to watch how Kinski’s personality completely erodes any Christ-like tendencies he may have initially hoped to demonstrate. For a show that should have preached love, tolerance and compassion, Kinski Jesus Christ Savior turns remarkably fast into a series of hate filled diatribes and outbursts of uncontrollable rage.
Kinski’s absolute commitment to and embodiment of his art is awe-inspiring. This goes beyond acting into the realm of transfiguration. Divine intoxication.
“The ultimate acting is to destroy yourself.” Klaus Kinski.