Herzog and the forms of madness

I agree with Roger Ebert: there can never be enough discussion of Werner Herzog. As I’ve burbled before, not every Herzog film is great, but they are all interesting, worth watching, and worth thinking about.

I received an intriguing communication from a reader, the art critic Daniel Quiles, about Werner Herzog. Yes, there has been a lot about Herzog on the site recently, but in my mind there can never be too much. He and a few other directors keep the movies vibrating for me. Not every movie needs to vibrate, but unless a few do, the thrill is gone.

Herzog seems to react strongly to subjects he wants to make a film about. You never hear him saying someone “brought me a project,” or his agent sent him a screenplay. Every one of his films is in some sense autobiographical: It is about what consumed him at that moment. The form of the film might be fiction, might be fact, might be a hybrid. The material dictates the form, and often his presence in the film dictates the material: It would not exist if he were not there. In a way, that’s what Quiles is writing about in connection with “Encounters at the End of the World.”

[Click to read the rest of the discussion of Herzog and the forms of madness – Roger Ebert’s Journal]

I still haven’t seen either Rescue Dawn nor Wild Blue Yonder. Soon, soon. Looks like Herzog is filming a movie about New Orleans currently called Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

There’s also Encounters at the End of the World, which sounds intriguing:

Read the title of “Encounters at the End of the World” carefully, for it has two meanings. As he journeys to the South Pole, which is as far as you can get from everywhere, Werner Herzog also journeys to the prospect of man’s oblivion. Far under the eternal ice, he visits a curious tunnel whose walls have been decorated by various mementos, including a frozen fish that is far away from its home waters. What might travelers from another planet think of these souvenirs, he wonders, if they visit long after all other signs of our civilization have vanished?

Herzog has come to live for a while at the McMurdo Research Station, the largest habitation on Antarctica. He was attracted by underwater films taken by his friend Henry Kaiser, which show scientists exploring the ocean floor. They open a hole in the ice with a blasting device, then plunge in, collecting specimens, taking films, nosing around. They investigate an undersea world of horrifying carnage, inhabited by creatures so ferocious, we are relieved they are too small to be seen. And also by enormous seals who sing to one another. In order not to limit their range, Herzog observes, the divers do not use a tether line, so they must trust themselves to find the hole in the ice again. I am afraid to even think about that.

Herzog is a romantic wanderer, drawn to the extremes. He makes as many documentaries as fiction films, is prolific in the chronicles of his curiosity and here moseys about McMurdo, chatting with people who have chosen to live here in eternal day or night.

Looking forward to a visit from the Netflix fairy soon

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