05 April 2011

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Dir. Werner Herzog

Opening Image:

Closing Image:

Water has both a destructive and redemptive quality in Herzog's universe. McDonagh is symbolically baptized at the beginning of the film as he jumps into the water to save a forgotten prisoner. But this is not a baptism of purity; he jumps into the filthy, snake-ridden flood water of the Hurricane Katrina calamity. We watch as McDonagh sinks lower and lower throughout the film. In one of the first post-prologue sequences he chastises a fellow officer for using rough interrogation techniques on an informant. Several days later McDonagh himself deprives an old woman of her oxygen tank to get the information he wants. He sinks deeper and deeper. During the last act, as things miraculously fall into place for him, we are forced to question the veracity of the film. Are these coincidental events real? Are they simply the product of his drug-addled mind? No clue is given in the last shot, but we are reminded both of how far McDonagh has sunk and of his cleansing baptism in the muddy water.

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