Werner Herzog, the Manic Genius II

“Without adequate images, we will die out like dinosaurs.” It’s a truth that Werner Herzog is […] Read more

“Without adequate images, we will die out like dinosaurs.” It’s a truth that Werner Herzog is always pursuing. Plunging into the unknown in quest for the lunatic lyricism of nature, he makes films to convince the world that his metaphoric images, and his totemic visions, can invest our lives with weight and meaning. Traveling to the edge of an erupting volcano, diving into the deep water under the Antarctica ice, venturing deep into the Amazon jungle, he is supposedly the only filmmaker to have shot on all seven continents. And he will climb into hell and wrestle the devil for his films, if it is necessary.

Possessed by impossible dreams and driven by a pathological addiction to sensationalism, he braves the most senseless difficulties and dangers. He spent years in the Amazon jungle trying to haul a steamship over a mountain; made Klaus Kinski fly into fists of uncontrollable rage as he succeeded at evil deeds; and went to the Australian Outback to listen to the Aboriginals talking to spirits in nature and to the dead. His only agenda is to make you look at his poetic, ecstatic truth.

With a combination of obfuscation and bravado, he has contributed to his own mythology. He set out on a pilgrimage from Munich to Paris through the winter snowstorms, believing that an act of walking could save his mentor, film critic Lotte Eisner; he ate his shoe as promised, when his fellow filmmaker Errol Morris finally completed his acclaimed documentary Gates of Heaven (1978). For any aspiring filmmakers who want to apply for his film school, they have to travel a distance of two thousand miles, alone and on foot. Always ambitious, obsessive and rejuvenating, Herzog’s films and visions never cease inspiring generation of filmmakers, among them Terrence Malick, Claire Denis, and Edward Yang.

Once asked: “What would you do if tomorrow the world would come to an end?” Herzog said: “I would start shooting a movie.” If not, what else?

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