Werner Herzog Retrospective – SWR Documentary Film Festival

With over 60 feature films and documentaries, the 79-year-old director, actor and producer has created an unrivaled lineup of works. His films are dense fictional masterpieces that blur the line between fiction and documentation. As a director, he has created stylistically defining documentaries that are often devoted to the fundamental force of nature, the allure of distant places or the depths of man.




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© 2012 Gerald F. fun


View of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes. The mountain peak and its overwhelming size remain hidden. It’s not the subject of a postcard, nor is it a scene from the Hollywood viewer who only cares about landscapes using its scenery as a beautiful setting. Instead, the view is on a mountain road, after the grueling trek of dozens of people on the rugged slopes of Machu Picchu. The abyss is obscured by the gray mist of thick fog, while the colors of advanced humans glow. This scene is from the documentary my best enemy It can be considered as an example of Werner Herzog’s attitude towards nature. He depicts them in all their beauty and terror, allowing them to become a part of human compassion by endowing them with human traits.

Herzog’s fascination with nature and its supreme meaning for humans extends throughout his film career. The origin of this lies in his childhood. Born on September 5, 1942 in Munich, the family fled the bombs of war with a young Werner to the village of Sachrange in Chiemgau. Nature is there, and the mountains on the Austrian-Bavarian border dug deep into his soul. In his early years, the family lived without running water and without electricity. Werner Herzog was twelve years old when he saw a movie for the first time in his life. He was immediately fascinated by the medium.

The essence that makes Werner Herzog’s work so special can be found in these early years of his life. At the age of fourteen, when he converted to the Catholic faith, he was interested in the big questions about God, the origin of life and time. It is these questions that run like a red thread in his work and make his films remarkable and memorable. The search for a higher being, the force of nature, we as individuals are inferior to it.



Werner Herzog (Photo: SWR, © Lena Herzog)

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© Lina Herzog


He used his impulses to understand the world around him as a motivator early on. Herzog worked after school and used it to finance his first short film Hercules at the age of 19. This physical commitment and economic modesty should also characterize the film’s later career. “Anyone who has a great idea for a movie but doesn’t find a way to finance that movie will probably end up making a miserable movie,” Herzog said in a 2016 interview with Tagesspiegel.

One of his first documentaries Land of Silence and Darkness Vinnie Straubinger accompanies the deafblind as she visits the deafblind. Here, Herzog’s endless quest to understand his environment and his fellow human beings is illustrated. There are intimate visions and deep moments – you can feel the loneliness of a deaf-blind, which is broken only by the touch of others. The images convey the profound human need for interconnectedness.

As already in the Land of Silence and Darkness Werner Herzog not only depicts the world in all his works. The camera paints images that remain with the viewers, impressing with their consciousness. In this way, Herzog penetrates the depths of human existence and creation. He finds poetry where others see only facts. In doing so, he repeatedly creates moments in his works that cross the border between fiction and documentary. The process of producing his feature films through improvisation often resembles a documentary, while individual documentaries are presented purely. As a result, his films are gaining a deeper truth.

The director, who now lives in Los Angeles, has won countless awards for his work and was awarded the Federal Order of Merit in 2012. Since 2016, he has been handing out the award himself Werner Herzog . Film Award For filmmakers who combine “courage, determination and vision,” as stated on the award website. The award is given only to those who, like Herzog, have spent themselves in the film, and show no shame towards foreign experiences. Because his shoots are also marked by a physical commitment that hardly anyone else has. Herzog goes to danger zones or occasionally documents how he eats his shoes. After all, he considers his task to be to create appropriate images that the world has missed, like Herzog in the Wim Wenders documentary. Tokyo Ja explained.

Herzog’s films use all technical means of the highest standard. Music is never used to evoke certain reactions in the audience, but to give familiar images a new meaning, a new luster. Documentary white diamond It is often based on previously created music. Herzog accompanies engineer Graham Dorrington as he attempts to fly his balloon over the Guiana jungle on the Atlantic coast of South America. Camera movements and editing evoke the feeling of flight, inspired by the weightless, all-new sound of the music of Dutch composer Ernst Rijsegger. It is therefore not surprising that film artist Herzog was drawn to opera, with his unique style of musical presentation. In 1985 he made his first major musical score with Dr. Faust Ferruccio Bosoni. Several other opera productions followed. One of the most famous of these is Wagner’s film Lohengrin for the 1987 Bayreuth Festival. He created atmospheric theatrical sets whose detailed visual power is by no means inferior to that of his films.

The three documentaries were made retroactively The land of silence and darkness, my dearest enemy And the white diamond specified. They represent different eras of Herzog’s filmmaking and very different themes. But they have one thing in common: Werner Herzog meticulously researches all the themes of his film and at the same time treats them with care that makes room for the fragility of our world. His films have created worlds and images that are understood by all, regardless of generations. The nearly 80-year-old Post receives messages from both young and old who are excited about his films and want to know more about how they are made. He told Herzog and continues to tell the stories that move us deeply. He succeeded in transforming exotic places into images that live within the scenes through their iconic effect.

He never dreamed of himself, according to Herzog in an interview with Welt am Sonntag in 2018. However, through his work he has bequeathed the world to new dream worlds.

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