Encyclopedia of Werner Herzog Part 2

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Klaus Kinski

German actor, perhaps the most visible and important person in the film career of Herzog. Their collaboration began in 1972, with the first big feature film Werner Herzog (see “Aguirre, the wrath of God”). Kinski already was quite a famous actor, he played in the theater of Brecht, performed his own one-man show about Jesus Christ, starred in David lean and Sergio Leone. However, in the industry have Kinsky has developed a dubious reputation: he could, for example, refuse to play Fellini for a more profitable money offers. In fact, one-third modest budget, “Aguirre” is gone for the fee.

In the end, Kinski starred in five Herzog films, invariably in the lead roles. The relationship of the actor and Director all the years of their cooperation was complex. Kinski repeatedly tried to escape from the site — that is, from the jungle (see Jungle), terrorized the entire crew, swore to work more with Herzog will not. And very, very much screaming. Herzog, in turn, deliberately provoke fits of rage Kinski and once seriously planned to burn down his house.

Already in the 1990s, after the death of Kinski, the film “My best enemy — Klaus Kinski”, where Herzog told in detail about all the details of these complicated relations. The most important moment of the film — one where the Director explains how and why he fell in love with Kinski. In the passage of the anti-war German film “Children, mother and General” (1955) Kinski played the Lieutenant who runs the shooting people. In one scene, his character fell asleep at the table, and the actor had to portray the awakening. How he did it, forever determined the choice of the main actor in the career of Herzog.

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Conquistador meaningless

All the characters Herzog — both fictional and real — like from one big family. They are all desperate rebels, loners, unable to find a common language with the world. All are hostages of a strange and almost impossible dreams, almost always adventurers. This and Brian Fitzgerald, conceived to build an Opera house in the jungle (see “Fitskarraldo”); and seeker, Dorado Conquistador Aguirre (see “Aguirre, the wrath of God”); and the Amateur actor of “My son, my son, what have you done” (2009), dreaming of killing his mother, as in the play. Heroes of the documentaries are the same: in the “White diamond” (2004) is an engineer, all my life dreaming to fly his dirigible over the pristine forests of Guyana; “grizzly” (2005) — man, every summer who lived with bears and eventually the bears eaten; in the movie “Gasherbrum — shining mountain” (1985) — the climber who commits another extreme climb with a minimum of equipment.

“Conquistador meaningless” — a definition, Herzog has invented for himself. It is well suited to his characters.

Non-professional actors

Despite the fact that the main actor Herzog — Klaus Kinski (see Klaus Kinski), and more recently the Director does not hesitate to invite Hollywood stars (e.g., Tim Roth and Nicolas cage), his recognizable technique — the use of non-professional actors. Not a problem for him to get to play a Finnish athlete or Peruvian Indians. On the site of the Herzog uses a variety of means — during the filming of “the Glass heart” (1976), for example, he resorted to hypnosis.

The most important example, Bruno S. (Yes, no last name, he was listed in the credits), the leading roles in the movie “Every man for himself and God against all” (1974) and “Stroshek” (1977). His characters are 16-year-old foundling Kaspar Hauser, who spent all his life locked up and released from prison, an alcoholic Stroshek is largely autobiographical. As a child, Bruno beat a prostitute mother, and when he was almost deaf, she sent him to the orphanage for the mentally retarded, and for the next 23 years, he spent in psychiatric hospitals, orphanages, and penal colonies. Thus, Bruno S., like his characters, the real dregs of society, the victim of civilization and its attempts to equalize all (see Civilization).

In a sense, the characters of the documentaries by Herzog actors, too, which the Director not only directs but sometimes even asks to play a scene composed by him (see Truth and fact). Given all this, it is not surprising that Herzog has repeatedly been accused of exploitation.


Unlike many other filmmakers, Herzog has never worked in the theater and never concealed his negative attitude to it:

“I’m not extremely fond of the theater. The few theatrical productions that I saw, was simply an affront to human dignity. The theater was a huge disappointment for me and inspired so disgusted that I don’t go there”.

While Herzog is a big fan of Opera. Apart from the fact that he often uses it in the soundtrack to the films and was chosen as the engine of the plot in “Fitskarraldo” (see “Fitskarraldo”), Herzog himself has repeatedly staged Opera performances in Germany and Italy.


For Herzog landscape is the starting point of the film. This results in numerous (and not entirely reasonable, in the opinion of Herzog) comparing it with the German artist of the nineteenth century Caspar David Friedrich, the discoverer of the tragedy in the landscape painting. Landscape for Herzog performs the function of a psychological portrait of the characters, it is part of their inner world. Especially clearly visible in the violent and frightening jungle in “Aguirre” (see “Aguirre, the wrath of God”) and in the scene with the windmills in his debut movie “Signs of life” (1968). In “Fata Morgana” (1970) is a surreal collection of dreams, taken by the camera, landscape and even supersedes the story.

Most of his films Herzog was shot in exotic locations. Despite the fact that it works extremely quickly (see Spontaneity), the time to search for the perfect place to shoot, he does not regret. Once the perfect place is found, Herzog and crew can a week to wait for the perfect shot — so it is often said that forwards the landscapes as well as directs actors on the set.

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Truth and fact

Herzog himself does not divide his films into fiction and documentary. The term “documentary” he does not like: “Call my film a documentary-like saying: “Warhol’s cans of soup ‘Campbell’ — a documentary image of tomato” soup”. It denies life to such concept and therefore the facts in his films are very dismissive.

For example, in the movie “Bells from the deep” (1993), dedicated to a popular belief in Russia of the 1990s (it is and healer, Alan Chumak, and shamans, and the policeman Vissarion, at some point realizes that he is Jesus Christ); there is a scene where the pilgrims crawling on his knees on the frozen lake, praying and trying to discern Kitezh-grad. This scene is fully staged and Herzog, arrived at the scene and not seeing any real pilgrim, paid to local drunks that they depicted religious ecstasy.

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