Two extraordinary documentaries which push the genre into meditative reflection on the human condition.
La Souffriere (1976, 33 minutes)
"What, then, particularly interests Herzog is the notion of people and places pushed to extremes: that it is by this route that we can discover something more essentially truthful about ourselves and the world around us. And it is this fundamental, what he calls “poetic, ecstatic truth” (2), that Herzog has always searched for. The film scholar and critic Mark Cousins has said that, after John Ford, Herzog is the most important landscape director in cinema history (3); whilst Herzog himself is fond of saying that we, as a race, only have embarrassed images of the world (that is, worn out and corrupted by picture postcard clichés), and that we need to find new images with which to define ourselves. If not, he warns, we will perish like the dinosaurs."From "Images at the end of the world"
The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner (1974, 45 min)
Woodcarver Steiner’s indelible minutes contain a perfect Herzogian subject: the “ski flier” who sails super-human distances — a serene young man who is portrayed to exist on a more transcendent plane. Walter Steiner is a medal-winning, record-breaking Swiss ski-jumper whom Werner’s ultra-slo-mo camera routinely captures soaring impossibly, and with an eerie calm usually reserved for monks or yogis. When rendered in hundreds of frames per second, Steiner’s feats dissolve the notion of the act as mere sport, launching it to the level of unearthly art bathed in death-defying ecstasy — a blissful state that Herzog finds himself in as well whilst doing live color commentary throughout the film. Also featuring an unforgettable, ethereal score by regular collaborator Florian Fricke (aka Popol Vuh), Steiner is easily one of the most visually breathtaking of all Herzog’s films, documentary or otherwise — so relish this opportunity to see it on the big screen!
HERZOG ON HERZOG edited by Paul Cronin
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Podcasts from the wonderful Resonance FM on cult and art film makers.
The Culture Show: Mark Kermode interviews Werner Herzog
During the course of the interview, Herzog is shot by a hidden sniper with an airgun; he continues the interview as if nothing unusual has happened...
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