Take a pill, dude!
After spending several hours in the relatively sedate company of Waller Jeffs, I was flung headlong into a 1970s nightmare as Klaus Kinski stepped up to the mic. The second night at Flatpack ended with a screening of Jesus Christ Saviour – a 16mm recording of Kinski’s one man show taking to a Berlin stage in 1971. Edited by the executor of Kinski’s estate, the film hoped to show the event in full rather than the selected scenes shown by director Werner Herzog, the actor’s collaborator, in his documentary portrait, My Best Fiend. The result was a compelling, hypnotic, rambling affair. Egged on by a disgruntled crowd (‘I want my ten marks back!’, ‘Bullshitter! Bullshitter! Bullshitter!’), Kinski became increasingly agitated, storming off stage and manhandling members of the audience who ran on stage to give their ten marks’ worth.
Kinski’s performance was magnetic – he repeated lines, stalled for effect, pointed out at the audience, a constant single tear running down his cadaverous face. Sometimes you felt sympathy as he struggled on, like a Herzog hero, undeterred in the face of adversity; at other points, you couldn’t help laughing as he screamed out menacingly to the audience, ‘Do unto others as you should do unto them!’. He sometimes seemed to lose the plot completely – after delivering a rambling monologue in the voice of Christ, he declared ‘I have to interrupt myself to quote Jesus’.
The film was a mesmerising piece of work and it is a credit to Kinski’s charisma that he held the screen for a full ninety minutes – the film mainly consisted of close-ups on Kinski’s face and as the mic obscured much of his face, we were often left focusing on his maniacal blue eyes.
After Kinski had finally finished his performance to a few hangers-on at 2am, we headed out from the Electric into the night, equally amused and bemused, with his recurring refrain ringing in our ears (‘Wanted: Jesus Christ, charged with seduction...’).