Klaus Kinski is a German actor known for his roles in more than 130 movies. Most of his films were filmed in Germany, but he has also appeared in Italy, Spain, Russia, the United Kingdom, and a few other countries. He was also a leading actor in the movies of Werner Herzog, such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and Nosferatu, the Vampyre. Kinski’s career spanned parts of the seventies and the eighties, where he had some strong successes, such as Aguirre.
The most fascinating aspect of Klaus Kinski’s career is his autobiography, which he wrote while he was still a teenager. After being sexually abused by his priest as a child, he was forced to flee to the United States, where he was denied entry and eventually lived in New York City. Kinski’s autobiography attempts to make his story less about himself and more about the experiences of other people. It describes what it was like to be a German during the time that Kinski was molested by priests, by other inmates, and by others who saw him as a sexual victim. His memoir portrays a side of the Germany that most people are either not privy to or don’t see.
Although Kinski’s life has changed considerably since he wrote his autobiography, the memoir remains a fascinating read. Part two of his autobiography focuses on his work as a director. I enjoyed reading his memoir because, although he is now an adult, part of the appeal of the story is how young he was when he was making films.
In his first film, Die Hard, Kinski played John McClane, a man with a rather unstable family life in which his parents continually fight. As the movie progressed I realized that while working on this film, Kinski repeatedly raped an assistant. While the assistant in question was never put on trial for sexually abusing him, he was fired from the job and had to leave town.
I was also surprised to learn that Kinksi’s mother was not only an abusive woman, but rather intelligent one as well. As was characteristic of the late nineteen thirties and early nineteen forties, Germany was full of poverty and misery for many people. However, both Klaus and his mother showed great resilience and courage. Despite her suffering, Mrs. Kinksi did not allow herself to be abused by her son. This gave her an important role in the life of her son, something that I think was well-deserved.
Nowadays, as the reunification of Germany has occurred, many young people (and even some older ones) are looking back at their past and trying to discover the things that were most important to them growing up. In many cases, this is a response to their parents, who might have been too focused on the “me” factor. However, parents can rarely escape accusations of “not being able to cope up with the changes” or living a hand-to-mouth existence. As such many young people are searching for an autobiography that is more honest and less filled with false praise for their parents. In this case, it was clear to see that Klaus Kinski wanted to convey his feelings of love for his mother in his book, so I think that he accomplished this successfully.
I especially liked how Klaus Kinksi ended the book by telling his readers how his love for his eldest daughter prompted him to become a better husband and father. While there were some portions of the book that was a bit melodramatic, I felt that the overall tone of the book was very positive and hopeful. I also liked how the author used his expertise as a German to relay his feelings of guilt and shame that resulted from his sexual abuse as a child. For many readers, especially survivors, these kinds of feelings are often overlooked and brushed aside as “normal”.
However, in all honesty, I feel that most people do overlook or brush away these feelings because they are afraid of what they will discover. I believe that by writing such a revealing and well-written biography of Kinksi, he achieved exactly the objective he wanted. Many readers who read this book will come away with a different and hopefully richer view into the life and times of this famous German director. I especially enjoyed learning about his working experiences as both a director and an actor. And, I especially liked how Klaus Kinksi painted his own picture of the dangerous and hostile working conditions that he experienced during his time as an actor in Hollywood. This is a must read book if you are a fan of both the Hollywood glitterati and the brutal realities that many of us find in our day-to-day lives.