The inherent distraction built into nearly every movie directed by German legend Werner Herzog – wondering how he got the actors, let alone his camera, in such godforsaken places – dominates in this recreation of a Spanish explorer’s doomed expedition down the Amazon River. It doesn’t really matter, though, if such distracting thoughts undermine the story, for the story is always secondary in Herzog’s pictures. The feat of filming comes first. And so the true power of Aguirre lies in those moments when actual danger impinges upon the fictional kind. Perilously perched upon crude log rafts and hurtling down the Amazon, the fear on the actors’ faces is astonishingly genuine. Water splashes onto the camera’s lens, and through the drips you can see them look directly into it as if they were pleading for Herzog to yell “Cut!” Herzog’s star, Klaus Kinski, never pleads. The actor, with whom Herzog frequently collaborated and famously clashed, plays the title explorer, and when he looks into the camera it is with an appropriate air of madness. He seems to be asking, “What else have you got?” By the time Aguirre launches into his famous speech, after a few of his desperate men have tried to desert him, the performance has become a delirious melding of off-screen personality and onscreen character. “I am the great traitor!” he rails, his wild stare condemning everyone who falls under it. Herzog keeps filming and we keep watching, trying to figure out which of them is the craziest.