Werner Herzog’s Memoirs – Memories of a Radical Filmmaker

Most know him for his five films with Klaus Kinski, die-hard fans appreciate his feature documentaries, which he emphasizes with poetic words and his Bavarian accent, and younger audiences know him from Hollywood productions like “Jack Reacher” or “The Mandalorian,” like a disgusting old man pulling strings in the background.

Werner Herzog is somehow ubiquitous. After more than 70 films as a director and his many appearances as an actor and speaker, he’s also become a respected legend in Hollywood — which made four guest appearances on “The Simpsons.”

Almost every year there is at least one movie, and for every year without there are also years where two or three movies are delayed. At around 80 years old, the busy man doesn’t look a bit tired. Once the latest movie is released, the next movie is already in the making.

religious certainty

Shortly before his birthday on September 5th, Herzog looks back at his life in a new book: “Everyone for himself and God against all” borrowed from the title of his 1974 film Caspar Hauser. At the time, “almost nobody was able to reproduce it properly, says the introduction, so this is a second try.

“In a book, you can forget the memories, and keep them trapped between the covers,” he wrote on Hanser Verlag’s website. He writes because he “does not sing nor dance”.

Things are less succinct among the book covers, but Herzog remains faithful to his poetic style in his book. It’s all about resistance and danger, which begins with his mother’s escape from the bombed city of Munich.

As a director, Herzog has always been someone who does his best. This can be seen, for example, in his films In the Forest with the Collie Klaus Kinski. Shooting “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” was difficult, to say the least, “Fitzcarraldo” (aside from its difficult lead actor) was accompanied by a number of disasters, including plane crashes and war.

But Herzog – like his hero – got a river steamer pulled from the mountain anyway.

The director says: “You can only do this if you have a very clear vision. It has always helped me in some way. And what is called the certainty of salvation in Catholicism. Almost like a certain religious certainty. “

What moves Herzog are the big questions that move the world. It tells about people in extreme situations. Not only in his feature films, but also in his documentaries, such as about an active volcano (“La Soufriere”), mountaineers Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander (“Gachcherbroom – the shining mountain”) and “Grizzly Man”, an animal welfare activist, killed at the hands of bears.

Searching for the truth of ecstasy

“He’s always turned down a purely observational documentary, this real-life movie,” says Susan Borg, our film editor. It is achieved through style, classification, and invention.”

Herzog himself says: “We all don’t know what truth is, neither the Pope in Rome nor the philosophers nor the mathematicians. It is in fact always just an approximation of something that lies far in the fog. We work towards it. In documentaries, I try to distinguish what is real Pure and what is fact. Facts per se are not fact. A Manhattan phone book, four million entries, uninspiring. We know the names and we know their phone numbers and addresses. But why Mr. Jonathan Smith cries in his pillow every night we don’t know – that’s what I’m looking for” .

Werner Herzog: “Everyone is for himself and God is against all”
Hanser Verlag 2022
352 pages, 28 euros

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