GenreDrama Initial DVD releaseMarch 28, 1991 CountryWest Germany
Release dateAugust 24, 1979 (1979-08-24) (US) Based onWoyzeck
by Georg Buchner WriterGeorg Buchner (play), Werner Herzog CastKlaus Kinski (Friedrich Johann Franz Woyzeck), Eva Mattes (Marie), Wolfgang Reichmann (Captain), Willy Semmelrogge (Doctor), Josef Bierbichler (Drum Major), Paul Burian (Andres) Similar moviesThe Tin Drum, Dirty Dancing, Vergiss Amerika, To Kill a Mockingbird, Peter Pan, Juno
Woyzeck[ˈvɔʏtsɛk] is a 1979 German drama film written, produced and directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski and Eva Mattes. It is an adaptation of the unfinished play Woyzeck by German dramatist Georg Büchner.
Franz Woyzeck, a lowly soldier stationed in a mid-nineteenth century provincial German town, is the father of an illegitimate child by his mistress Marie. Woyzeck earns extra money for his family by performing menial jobs for the Captain and agreeing to take part in medical experiments conducted by the Doctor. As one of these experiments, the Doctor tells Woyzeck he must eat nothing but peas. It is obvious that Woyzeck's mental health is breaking down and he begins to experience a series of apocalyptic visions. Meanwhile, Marie grows tired of Woyzeck and turns her attentions to a handsome drum major, who in an ambiguous scene taking place in Marie's bedroom, sleeps with her.
After some time, and with his jealous suspicions growing, Woyzeck confronts the drum major, who beats him up and humiliates him. Finally and at the verge of mental breakdown, Woyzeck stabs Marie to death by a pond. Woyzeck disposes of the knife in the pond, and while trying to wash the blood off, he hallucinates that he is swimming in blood and apparently drowns himself and dies. While recovering the corpses, the townspeople relish on the fact that "a real murder" has taken place, distracting everyone from their mind-numbingly boring lives.
Interpretation of the original unfinished play
As critics disagree upon the order Büchner intended the surviving fragments of his work to be played, it is difficult to assert whether Herzog stuck to the play. He kept to the overall plot, but of necessity, his was an interpretation of how best the scenes should be pieced together to portray it.
Klaus Kinski as Friedrich Johann Franz Woyzeck
Eva Mattes as Marie
Wolfgang Reichmann as Captain
Willy Semmelrogge as Doctor
Josef Bierbichler as Drum Major
Paul Burian as Andres
Volker Prechtel as Handwerksbursche
Dieter Augustin as Marktschreier
Irm Hermann as Margret
Wolfgang Bächler as Jew
Filming for Woyzeck in Telč, Czechoslovakia, began just five days after work on Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre had ended. Herzog used the same exhausted crew and star. The scenes were accomplished mostly in a single take, which allowed the filming to be completed in only 18 days; it was edited in just four. Herzog had planned to use Bruno S. in the title role, but he then changed his mind, considering Kinski more suitable for the part. To compensate Bruno for this disappointment, Herzog wrote the leading role in the film Stroszek especially for him.
At the 1979 Cannes Film Festival, Eva Mattes won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her part in this film. Herzog was nominated for the Golden Palm. In 1981, the film won the Silver Guild Film Award from the Guild of German Art House Cinemas.
The music during the opening scene before the credits is Beethoven Piano Sonata Op. 81a, Second Movement ("Abwesenheit" or "Absence") performed on a celeste.
The opening credits strings music is performed by the Fidelquartett Telč. The performance seems to have been created for the movie since no further reference is available.
The last song of the closing credits is the second movement (largo) of Antonio Vivaldi's concerto for lute and two violins in D major (RV93), played with the guitar.