Werner Herzog 80 – Memories of Miracles, Death and Kinsky – Culture


In the new book Everyone for Himself and God Against All, Werner Herzog takes a look at his life so far. The director encountered a lot that is worth mentioning.

A few years ago, Werner Herzog was asked if he would like to contribute to the Venice Biennale of Art. Herzog refused because the art world hated him. The question was whether he was uninterested as an artist. Herzog replied that he was not an artist, he was a soldier.

It wasn’t a joke. In Herzog’s memoirs, published on September 5 to mark his 80th birthday, he repeatedly described himself as a soldier. And yes: as a soldier, Herzog put himself at risk in nearly all of his films and bravely endured it.

brave soldier

Herzog reports on Mexican rodeos, volcanic eruptions, and brisk mountain rides. Often death jumped from the shovel.

Herzog wrote that he was confident in his youth that he would never be eighteen. In his opinion, he owes the fact that he is still alive today to the virtues of a soldier: duty, loyalty, and courage.


Seeking adventure, or at least not avoiding it: Werner Herzog filmed “Rescue Dawn” in 2007.


Enthusiasm to obey orders and perseverance annoying. After all, Herzog suffered the consequences of the war as a child. Describes an old poor childhood in the countryside of Upper Bavaria. He goes barefoot with his brothers to the mountains and catches trout from the stream with his bare hands.

However, Herzog describes a happy childhood. He remembers a rural poetess in a magical mountain world. This is where the astonishment around the world and the people that propelled Herzog as a documentary filmmaker began.

stolen camera

It was not expected that Werner Herzog would become a director. The premiere of the movie he attended as a child did not leave any lasting impression. Even later he did not have much enthusiasm for cinema.

He came to film through people who found him fateful and as a subjective person. Herzog says everything he knows about filmmaking comes from an encyclopedia. You don’t need more.

A legend is often told that Herzog stole his first movie camera, which he confirms in the book. There are countless such mythical stories about Herzog, and they all appear in this book – the memoirs are also Herzog’s “greatest hits.”

Herzog holding a portrait of Klaus Kinsky with a serious expression.


Herzog did five films with Klaus Kinski (black and white photo). However, the relationship between the two was not easy.

IMAGO / teutopress

The shooting with Klaus Kinsky in the Amazon was also detailed, although Herzog had already dealt with it in the memoirs “Useless Invasion” and the documentary “My Dearest Enemy”.

Horror in the Amazon

The shooting of Herzog’s main works “Aguirre” and “Fitzcaraldo” is also so adventurous that it should appear in this book: plane accidents, snakebites, attacks with bayonets.

Herzog tells these stories in his own unique way – with great earnestness and an eye for detail, where the really big things are revealed. Herzog has always at least always been about truth, madness, fate, or death.

Unfortunately, Herzog gained little new knowledge from the stories already told of accidents and misfortunes. For example, he does not reconsider his relationship with Kinsky, whom he usually calls only “angry” in the book.

Herzog was not puzzled by an eloquent statement (“I think the whole twentieth century was a mistake”). And as a reader, one likes to marvel at the world and the creative power of people with Herzog.

book reference

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Werner Herzog: “All for themselves and God against all. Memories.” Hanser, 2022.

SRF Radio 2 Kultur, Cultural Bulletin, September 5, 2022, 8:06 am.

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