This evening in late in 1971, actor Klaus Kinski had caused a stir by announcing that he would be returning to recital after a decade spent as a movie star. Those who turned up to see him on the night, however, were largely of the younger generation and unconvinced by his choice of subject matter and his apparent identfication - in his own mind - with the historical figure of Jesus Christ. So it was that when five thousand people sat down in the audience for this show, the mood was split between those who genuinely wished to hear what Kinski had to say, and those who were there to heckle - and oh, how they heckled...
Ever since Kinski's autobiography All I Need is Love, retitled Kinski Uncut (with the names in the more libellous passages censored), has become better known or at least more widely read, his reputation as some kind of madman has been difficult to shake. After taking in all those tales of his insatiable sexual appetite, which included leanings towards incest (daughter Nastassja Kinski was reportedly not amused) as well as trying every woman he could get his hands on, and the scattershot insulting of just about everyone he ever worked with, not to mention the bit where he gets so angry that he strangles a wasp (!), the reasonable reaction would be that he was not a man in is right mind for most of the time.
That's if you believe he meant everything in that book, but it was not all about sex for Kinski, as he was actually very passionate about his work which is why he came across as so wounded when he felt he was not turning his talents to the best material. So when he opted to go back to the stage, he arranged for cameras to be there, sensing that something important was going to happen; well, it was likely to be unforgettable to all those who showed up, but the footage lay unattended to for decades until director Peter Geyer assembled it into some kind of shape in 2008. The trouble was, what it depicted was not going to change many audiences' minds that Kinski was off his rocker.
Yet while you can laugh at the mishaps the catcalls from those watching provoke, and Kinski was one of those people born with "one skin too few", meaning he wasn't going to take the scepticism he was faced with lightly, you do start to feel sorry for the star as his grand designs falter in the face of a tough crowd. As he launches into his "thirty typewritten pages of text" that he has memorised, he is interrupted by voices essentially calling him a hypocrite for getting so rich with his work and then espousing the ideals of the Biblical Christ, who associated with the poor and was, to their eyes, far more selfless than the man before them on the stage, who could be viewed as just another pretentious move star.
Was Kinski that out of touch? If you listen to what he is trying to say, that he is backing up Christ's teachings, then it's obvious he was sincere, even if his claims to be as persecuted as the Son of God was, if only by his implication, are hard to take. But that famous temper will not be appeased, and he has to break off from his monologue many times to bark back retorts at those criticising him and yelling out that this is not as good as those Edgar Wallace mysteries and Spaghetti Westerns he was famous for. Someone even shouts out "Hail Satan" at one of the more devout parts. It's true that seeing Kinski live up to his reputation as, shall we say, a volatile personality can be quite funny, but he was out there in front of thousands laying his soul bare and gets called a fascist for it. The film has a coda after the end credits, as the few who did wish to hear his show are rewarded with a more peaceful rendition after almost everyone else has gone home: even here the tension of the evening has not entirely dissipated.
Aka: Jesus Christus Erlöser