Encyclopedia of Werner Herzog Part 1

Rolling out the new film by Herzog, “Oh, the Internet! Dreams of the digital world”. Arzamas explains how the world works of German Director, using the key he concepts, techniques, themes, and movies.

German Director Werner Herzog — 74 years. His first feature film was released in 1968. Since then almost every year it produces one or two films — fiction, documentary or mockumentary. During this time, his biography and Director’s principles have had time to grow into myths and legends, and Herzog himself has given hundreds of interviews and written several books. Let’s try to identify and explain the main features of his cinema.

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“Aguirre, the wrath of God”

The first big (the Director himself prefers to use the term “commercial”) film Herzog. Filmed in 1972 just over 350 thousand dollars, “Aguirre” did Herzog known. In the center of the plot — rapidly losing touch with reality, the Spanish Conquistador Lope de Aguirre, together with an armed squad went in search of the Golden city of Eldorado.

Familiarity with game films of Herzog should start with “Aguirre”. Already it has everything that is common to associate Herzog so far: Klaus Kinski in the title role (see Klaus Kinski) and his hero, covered by the fevered dream (see Conquistador pointless), jungle (see Jungle) and like the documentary style of shooting.


Herzog first of all, interesting characters with a different, unusual perception of reality. Therefore, in his films so much of the exotic — Indians, a variety of folk beliefs and practices. But in this search for a different perception of the world is not limited to Ethnography. One of the most poignant of his films — documentary “Land of silence and darkness” (1971) is devoted to a deaf-blind German woman, Fini Straubinger. The same interest — and in the feature film “Every man for himself and God against all” (1974), which tells the story of Kaspar Hauser, the 16-year-old foundling, who spent his entire life locked up and never seen the world.

And yet Herzog himself does not want to count their anthropological films:

“In my films as much anthropology as in the music of Gesualdo, or in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. Their attitude to anthropology — only in the attempt to make sense of the human lot in this time and on this planet. I do not remove the clouds and trees, I work with people because I’m interested in their life in different cultures. If it turns me into an anthropologist, so be it.”

About Herzog often rented movies, but one of the tapes are special — there are no biographies of the Director, there is no description of his creative methods, it does not appear even Klaus Kinski (see Klaus Kinski). But there is a Shoe that will be eaten.

The backstory is simple: Herzog promised his friend, the film Director Errol Morris, will eat the boot if he will bring his first film to the end. In the end, Morris did no longer complain about the lack of money and in 1978 he graduated from the film “Gates of heaven” on the cemeteries of Pets. Eating a Shoe he decided to make a Forest Form (see “Fitskarraldo”). Initially there was an unspoken agreement that short of a boot will only be on their own, but in the end, the movie still met with the audience because in the words of Herzog eating a Shoe “should be an incentive for those who want to make a movie and is afraid to start”. By the way, the career of Errol Morris then continued to the present time he directed more than two dozen documentary films, and 30 years after the incident with the Shoe together with Herzog produced the film “Act of killing”.

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The Duke

The real name of Director — Stipetic. Herzog — the name of the father, with whom he never really talked much. According to his own statement, alias Herzog picked because “in the movie needed some sort of base count, or Duke Ellington” (m, base, and Duke Ellington — jazz musicians, Directors of orchestras; count in English means “count,” and duke “the Duke”; Herzog also translates from German as “the Duke”).


In the jungle, the action takes place in many of the films of Herzog, and the rainforest it is more than just scenery. He is the embodiment of emotions, dreams, and nightmares of the characters. In “Aguirre” (see “Aguirre, the wrath of God”) is a reflection of the psychological portrait of a crazed adventurer, Conquistador. “Fitskarraldo” (see “Fitskarraldo”) — obsession nightmare and the main character, who dreams of opening the Opera house in the middle of the Peruvian forest, but did not cope with the elements.

In the film “Burden of dreams”, devoted to the filming of “Fitskarraldo”, there is a funny episode. The lead actor (see Klaus Kinski) and Herzog himself one after another talk about their relationship to the jungle. The actor, who a few days ago, wanted to run away with the set, says they appear to him to be sexy, and extremely erotic; his soliloquy illustrate the footage of Kinski pretends to copulate with a tree. After this episode appears on the screen Herzog. Frowning in disgust, he says that jungle seems to him likely not erotic, but obscene, no harmony, and there is only the struggle for survival (the struggle for survival in the jungle is devoted to two documentaries of Herzog’s “Little Dieter needs to fly” and “Wings of hope”). “If you look in the jungle is visible to the harmony of some kind is a universal harmony of collective murder,” he sums up.

However, Herzog was drawn to the jungle, and he explains it like this:

“As a true Bavarian, I can relate to the fertility of the jungle that reigns there an atmosphere of phantasmagoria and boiling life. I’ve always regarded the jungle as a kind of concentrated reality.”

A mandatory element of documentary and documentary films of Herzog. The text usually reads the Director himself — in German and in English, Bavarian accent.

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Film school

Werner Herzog — taught. The first shooting, which he got, was his own. Before that, he said, he read 15 pages about how to shoot a movie, in the encyclopedia — that’s all in the preparation. Subsequently, Herzog has repeatedly stated that the film needs only three things: the telephone, typewriter, and car. In fact, these first ten years, and boiled down all his Studio (see Werner Herzog Filmproduktion).

Despite the overt skepticism about education in General, directed not against to turn to the teaching itself. In the 1990s he headed the Vienna film festival and at the same time lectured about the movie. He read them in a circus tent, and on every lecture invited guest — the magician, a specialist in opening locks or cosmologist from Bangladesh. According to Herzog, only such people truly can teach filmmaking.

In 2009, Herzog announced the opening of the school, “guerrilla-filmmaking” (that is, films shot in extreme conditions and on the brink of human capabilities). This school has no permanent address and schedule: about once a year, Herzog examines the requests, selects several dozen of them, and appoints a meeting in the conference room at some airport. Here is how he describes this process in a recent interview:

“Sometimes I see fragments of some movies or talking about something completely extraneous, for example about mathematical theorems or Minoan bronze plates. Such items are usually not mentioned in film schools. What we do, by and large, do not talking about the movie — more about how to understand science and the arts. This is not learning in the usual sense: how to edit a video or how to use a camera — like things you can learn independently, without any film schools”.

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