Marcelle Clements:
Is this man of strange and explosive power really the world's greatest actor?"

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I guess I'll have to call it the "thing." I can't think of a name for it. During one of our conversations, I tried to pin Klaus Kinski down for a name, and he reminded me of the fairy tales in which people die when they find out a forbidden name. "But anyway," he said, "there can be no word to express this thing, this secret. Because this secret, which is not actually a secret, it is very simple, but it includes, includes, endless, endless, almost everything, you know. The thinking about it and being conscious of all this means at the same moment changing everything, like in nature, changing and changing and changing, endless, always, never-ending movement, you see."
I don't know whether or not I'll be able to explain the "thing" to you, though I believe that I understand it perfectly after spending some time with Kinski. It is not so much any specific thing he said, any one word he uttered; it is the accumulation of many words, images, metaphors, examples that he used, but also gestures, facial expressions, tone, the settings in which we talked and, above all, the moods he can generate when all those arc combined.
Kinski speaks elliptically; he calls it telegraph style." Sometimes his meaning is clear only by inference. But in talking with him, I soon understood how skillful he is, by instinct, at leading one to leap from an image to an idea. I realize now that Kinski could have talked to me in this seemingly inexact manner about the quantum theory and I would have learned a great deal of physics. In fact, in a way, that is exactly what he talked to me about: the emission and absorption of energy in nature. This was my first important lesson about what it is the "actor" does.
So most of the time when we talked together, we referred to it as "this thing."
I know, though, that other people would have names for the thing. Some might call it talent, because it is the energy out of which artists create. But some might dismiss this "thing" of Kinski's as nonsense or would simply call it insanity. I believe it is the pain of the exposed, hypersensitive psyche. In trying to convey its essence to me, Kinski sometimes also called it the force, or the power, or nakedness, or receptivity, or the incarnation of all that is alive. Sometimes he used the phrase "participation in the universe." In the East, there is a tradition of seeking such a merging. Indeed, Kinski admits that certain of the states he sometimes enters resemble meditation and embody some of the tenets of yoga. "But," as he puts it, "I don't need anybody to tell me how to be alive."
The next thing he said was "Faster!" Or, rather, he yelled, "FASTER!"- which made my heart leap for the l00th time that afternoon, since I had only just learned how to drive. I also have a terrible fear of heights and we were, at that moment, heading toward the ocean on what seemed to me to be a precipitous mountain road. "Can't you see there is someone behind us? Why do you go so SLOW? Just GO!"
"But I'm going to drive over the cliff," I protested.
"No, no. Look, you have much room. Let him pass. I can't bear this, to have people stick on other cars' ass. Why won't they pass? It is unbearable. Stop. STOP!"
"OK," I said, lurching a few feet closer to what I thought was certain death. "Just let him pass," he said "It's true, for you it would be easy to go over the cliff."
"I knew you'd be irritated by my driving," I muttered.
"Irritated!" he said. "I HATE it!"

© 1985 by Marcelle Clements and Playboy Enterprises Inc.

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