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‘Fascist, psychopath, genius, madman’: Klaus Kinski, as Jesus Christ, loses his shit onstage

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Klaus Kinski had the look of man of a man possessed—a cross between Iggy Pop and a comic book psychopath. It was a look that could convince the unwary he had just escaped from Arkham asylum and was now out for bloody revenge. It was a look earned by painful experience which hid the deeply troubled and sensitive artist underneath.

In truth, Kinski’s mental health was an issue. In the 1950s, he spent three days in a psychiatric hospital where the preliminary diagnosis was schizophrenia—the “conclusion psychopathy.”

He attempted suicide first with an overdose of morphine tablets and then a few days later with an overdose of sleeping pills. One doctor wrote that Kinski was “a danger to the public”:

His speech is violent. In this, his self-centred and incorrigible personality is evident as one that can’t blend in civil circumstances. He remains consistent to his egocentric world view and declares all others prejudiced [...] The patient hasn’t had a job in one year, but still speaks confidently of the new film in which he will star.

Another doctor concluded the young actor showed “signs of severe mental illness.” After a series of insulin treatments, Kinski was released. He believed he was being persecuted which made him all the more determined to make a success of his life.

A few years later, Kinski established himself as an up-and-coming actor in Vienna. But his volatile personality—the anger, the passion that fueled his performances—caused him to be labeled as too difficult. To compensate, and keep a roof over his head, he performed one-man shows reciting Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Francois Villon.

He found some financial security as a bit player in movies—most notably the spaghetti western For a Few Dollars More and war films such as A Time to Love and a Time to Die and The Counterfeit Traitor. But Kinski had a talent and an ego that inspired him to hold bolder, greater, more personal ambitions.
 
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In 1971, Kinski hired the Deutschlandhalle to perform his own 30-page interpretation of the life of Jesus Christ—Jesus Christus Erlöser (“Jesus Christ Saviour”). It was no ordinary show. It attracted an audience of diametrically opposed fans—radical students, religious followers and those intrigued to just see the “madman Kinski” did next.

A production about Jesus Christ by one of Germany’s most notorious actors was bound to cause confusion and controversy. Some of the audience seemed to think Kinski was evangelizing, rather than interpreting a role. This led to constant heckling from the spectators. The Christians thought he was blaspheming. Those on the Left thought he was a snake oil salesman for Christianity. Kinski was doing none of this. His Christ was part Kinski, part revolutionary, and part troubled soul. As the audience heckled, Kinski responded to the abuse, as Twitch Film notes:

[A]fter someone stated that shouting down people who disagreed with him was unlike Christ, Kinski responded with a different take on how Christ might respond: “No, he didn’t say ‘shut your mouths’, he took a whip and beat them. That’s what he did, you stupid sow!”

He challenged the audience: “can’t you see that when someone lectures thirty typewritten pages of text in this way, that you must shut your mouths? If you can’t see that, please let someone bang it into your brain with a hammer!” The evening’s festivities also turned physical as an audience member is shown getting bounced from the stage by a bodyguard. Someone responds that “Kinski just let his bodyguard push a peaceful guy, who only wanted to have a discussion, down the stairs! That is a fascist statement, Kinski is a fascist, a psychopath!”

 
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Kinski was unbowed:

I’m not the official Church-Christ, who is accepted by policemen, bankers, judges, executioners, officers, church-heads, politicians and other representatives of the powers that be. - I’m not your super-star!

In a filmed interview, Kinski was asked whether in light of the popularity of such shows as Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell if he was merely riding a fashionable wave to win popularity. Kinski replied he’d had the idea of making a play out of Christ’s life for some time.

I originally had this idea twenty years ago. When I was six years old I received my only praise…usually I got punished in school…I got praised because I learnt the New Testament by heart, I didn’t really understand it but I was just good at learning texts by heart. But accusing me of riding a popular wave is just plain stupid—it was already in the papers twelve years ago that I’m going to interpret the New Testament and already twelve years ago people were annoyed with me because of that. And what do you mean by “riding the popular wave”? I’m a good rider, but on a horse.

Kinski thought the church distorted the New Testament “with murderous intent—because the church, as everyone knows, did interpret it to fit their intentions.”
 
More Klaus Kinski after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Klaus Kinski accused of molesting his daughter for 14 years
01.09.2013
04:33 pm

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Earlier today, in an interview with German newsweekly Stern, Klaus Kinski’s eldest daughter, Pola Kinski, now 60, accused the late film icon of sexually abusing her.

Kinski told the magazine, which hits the stands tomorrow, that her father, who died in 1991, molested her from the age of five until she turned 19. He raped her, she claims, and would then buy her expensive gifts to assuage his guilt.

Ms. Kinski is about to publish a tell-all book she has written about her father, and said she wished to put an end to the cult of personality surrounding the wildly bi-polar cult thespian, best known for his roles in Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God:

“I was sick of hearing, ‘Your father! Great! Genius! I always liked him.’ Since his death, this adulation has only got worse.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
On the anniversary of his death: A video of Klaus Kinski dancing the tango and singing
11.23.2012
11:37 pm

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21 years ago today, Klaus Kinski died of a heart attack at the age of 65.

In one of his rare appearances on German TV, Klaus Kinski dances with Austrian singer and dancer Margot Werner. Kinski manhandles Werner with the intensity of a tiger about to eat his prey. He’s practically licking his paws.

This gives me an idea for a demented version of Dancing With The Stars involving serial killers and assorted psychotics.

The song is “Zuhälter-Ballade” from the Threepenny Opera.
 

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Giant Klaus Kinski head sculpture
09.11.2012
05:46 pm

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Here’s something I never thought I’d see: A HUGE Klaus Kinski head sculpture by German artist Paule Hammer. The title of the piece—made in 2005—is “Niemand weiß, was wir fühlen” (which translates to “Noboby knows what we feel”).

Previously on Dangerous Minds:

‘I am not your Superstar’: Klaus Kinski as Jesus Christ

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Jesus Christ Savior’: Klaus Kinski’s 1971 punk rock apocalypse
02.13.2011
04:21 am

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Jesus Christ Savior

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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.

 
Previously on DM: “I am not your Superstar’: Klaus Kinski as Jesus Christ.”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘I am not your Superstar’: Klaus Kinski as Jesus Christ
01.15.2011
07:02 pm

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Klaus Kinski

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You wouldn’t mess with Klaus Kinski. He had a look that said it all - a cross between Iggy Pop and a drug-addled psycho. His mental health had been an issue. In the 1950s, Kinski spent three days in a psychiatric hospital, where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. In 1955, having failed to find any work as an actor, he attempted suicide - twice.

By the late 1950s, he had slowly established himself as an actor in Vienna, but the anger, the passions, that fueled his performances meant he was always labeled difficult. To overcome this, Kinski started performing one-man shows, reciting Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Francois Villon.

In the sixties he found some security as a bit player in Spaghetti Westerns such as For a Few Dollars More, but Kinski had an ambitious ego that inspired him to greater, more confrontational things.

In 1971, Kinski hired the Deutschlandhalle to perform his own 30-page interpretation of Jesus Christ. It was no ordinary show, and the audience was a mix of radical students, religious followers and those intrigued to see the “mad man Kinski”. Even then, before his work with Werner Herzog, the public thought of Kinski as either mad man or genius.

Moreover, there was some confusion amongst the audience, who seemed to think Kinski was an evangelist, rather than an actor interpreting a role. This led to constant heckling from the spectators - both the happy-clappy Christians, who thought he was blaspheming; and those on the Left, who though he was soft-soaping Christianity. Kinski was doing neither. His Christ was part Kinski, part Anarchist-Revolutionary, and he repsonded fulsomely to the abuse, as Twitch Film notes:

For example, after someone stated that shouting down people who disagreed with him was unlike Christ, Kinski responded with a different take on how Christ might respond: “No, he didn’t say ‘shut your mouths’, he took a whip and beat them. That’s what he did, you stupid sow!”

In another scene, he brow beats the audience by saying “can’t you see that when someone lectures thirty typewritten pages of text in this way, that you must shut your mouths? If you can’t see that, please let someone bang it into your brain with a hammer!” The evening’s festivities also turned physical as an audience member is shown getting bounced from the stage by a bodyguard. Someone responds that “Kinski just let his bodyguard push a peaceful guy, who only wanted to have a discussion, down the stairs! That is a fascist statement, Kinski is a fascist, a psychopath!”

Kinski continued undaunted:

“I’m not the official Church-Christ, who is accepted by policemen, bankers, judges, executioneers, officers, chruch-heads, politicians and other representatives of the powers that be. - I’m not your super-star!”

The evening was filmed by Peter Geyer, who later assembled the footage together into an incredible documentary film Jesus Christus Erlöser (Jesus Christ Saviour) in 2008. It is a film well worth seeing for Kinski’s powerful, passionate and unforgettable performance, which gives an unflinching insight into the man, the ego and the mad genius that was Klaus Kinski.
 

 
Bonus clip in color, after the jump…
 
Previously on DM

Klaus Kinski Skateboard


 
With thanks to Little Stone
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment