Woyzeck (1979 film)

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This article is about the film. For Georg Büchner stage play, see Woyzeck.
Woyzeck dvd.jpg
Woyzeck DVD cover
Directed by Werner Herzog
Produced by Werner Herzog
Written by Werner Herzog
Georg Büchner (play)
Based on Woyzeck 
by Georg Büchner
Starring Klaus Kinski
Eva Mattes
Wolfgang Reichmann
Willy Semmelrogge
Cinematography Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein
Edited by Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus
Distributed by Werner Herzog Filmproduktion
Release dates
  • August 24, 1979 (1979-08-24) (US)
Running time
82 min.
Country West Germany
Language German

Woyzeck is a 1979 film by the German director Werner Herzog that stars Klaus Kinski and Eva Mattes. It is an adaptation of the play Woyzeck by German dramatist Georg Büchner.


Franz Woyzeck, a lowly soldier stationed in a 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, arguably rapes her.

With his jealous suspicions growing, Woyzeck confronts the drum major, who beats him up and humiliates him. Finally, 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 dies.

Interpretation of the original unfinished play[edit]

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.


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.[1] In 1981, the film won the Silver Guild Film Award from the Guild of German Art House Cinemas.[2]



  • 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.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Woyzeck". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  2. ^ "Awards for Woyzeck". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-12-25. 

External links[edit]