COBRA VERDE (also known as SLAVE COAST) is a 1987 German drama film
Werner Herzog and starring
Klaus Kinski , in their fifth
and final collaboration. It was based upon
Bruce Chatwin 's 1980 novel
The Viceroy of Ouidah
The Viceroy of Ouidah . The film depicts the life of a fictional
slave trader . It was filmed on location in
* 1 Plot
* 2 Production
* 3 Tension between Herzog and Kinski
* 4 References
* 5 External links
Francisco Manoel da Silva (
Klaus Kinski ) is a debauched Brazilian
rancher who reluctantly goes to work at a gold mining company after
his ranch is ruined by drought. When he discovers that he is being
financially exploited, he murders his boss and goes on the lam to
pursue a career as an outlaw. He becomes the notorious Cobra Verde
(Green Snake), the most vicious bandit of the sertão .
In his travels, da Silva encounters and subdues an escaped slave, an
act that impresses wealthy sugar baron Don Octávio Coutinho (José
Lewgoy ). Don Coutinho, unaware that he is dealing with the legendary
bandit, hires da Silva to oversee the slaves on his sugar plantation.
When da Silva subsequently impregnates all three of the Don's
daughters, the sugar baron is furious, but the situation becomes even
more complicated when he discovers that da Silva is none other than
the infamous Cobra Verde.
As punishment, rather than kill him or have him prosecuted, Don
Coutinho decides to send da Silva on the impossible mission of
re-opening the slave trade with Western Africa. The bandit is aware he
is likely to be killed in Africa, but accepts anyway. He travels by
Dahomey , West Africa, where he must negotiate with the
fearsome King Bossa Ahadee of
Dahomey (played by His Honor the
Omanhene Nana Agyefi Kwame II of Nsein, a village north of the city of
Amazingly, da Silva succeeds in convincing the King to exchange
slaves for new rifles. He takes over
Elmina Castle and takes Taparica
(King Ampaw), sole survivor of the previous expedition, for a partner.
They begin operating the slave trade across the Atlantic to Brazil.
Soon, however, the fickle king has them captured and brought before
him. The King accuses da Silva of various crimes that he has no
knowledge of, including poisoning the King's greyhound, and sentences
him to death. He and Taparica are rescued the night prior to da
Silva's decapitation by the King's nephew, who negotiates a blood
alliance with da Silva, planning to overthrow the King. The ambitious
bandit trains an enormous army of native women , and leads them on a
raid to successfully overthrow King Bossa.
Against all expectations, the slave trade is successfully maintained
under the new King, thanks to da Silva's resourcefulness. However, da
Silva eventually falls out of favor with the new King, and discovers
that in the meantime the Portuguese have outlawed slavery and seized
his assets, and the English have placed a price on his head. Despite
the adversity, da Silva is glad that finally a change has come. The
exhausted bandit tries desperately to take a boat to water, but
despite his best efforts, he is unable to accomplish the task. He
collapses next to the ship as the tide slowly laps in. The film ends
with the hauntingly symbolic image of an African man stricken with
polio walking along the shore, and a group of young native women
laughingly chant over the credits.
The film was shot in Ghana,
Brazil and Colombia. Herzog showed Kinski
photographs of the places where he would like to work. Kinski was
interested in some landscapes in Colombia, but Herzog did not agree.
However, Kinski made the trip with a group of friends to some remote
places that fascinated him: the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de
Santa Marta and the Cape of the Sailing, on the peninsula of La
Guajira, Colombia. Herzog finally decided on Villa de Leyva and Valle
del Cauca, in the South American country. Kinski said then: "Herzog
does not know that I give life to the dead scenery".
The film was based upon
Bruce Chatwin 's 1980 novel The Viceroy of
Ouidah , which was itself based on the Brazilian slave trader
Francisco Félix de Sousa and his role in helping King
Adandozan as King of
Dahomey with the help of Ghezo's
Dahomey Amazons .
TENSION BETWEEN HERZOG AND KINSKI
Cobra Verde was the last film that
Werner Herzog would make with
Klaus Kinski. Their now-legendary personality conflict peaked during
the film. The film's production was especially affected by Kinski's
fiery outbursts. The cast and crew were continually plagued by
Kinski's wrath, most famously culminating in the film's original
Thomas Mauch walking out on the project after a
perpetual torrent of verbal abuse from Kinski. Herzog was forced to
replace Mauch with
Viktor Růžička .
Herzog's opinions of Kinski are deeply explored in his 1999
My Best Fiend