Directors Profile: Werner Herzog
Our director's profile this week takes a look at the man, whom we see below shrugging off an air rifle attack and emphasizing a fundamental value for all artists: "The poet must not avert his eyes". Werner Herzog is a self-made, Munich-born director, claiming that all he needed to get started as a film maker was an encyclopedic entry that he read at the age of 14, along with a camera that he stole from the Munich Film School, and his work as a welder that funded his films ... (continued)
Our director's profile this week takes a look at the man, whom we see below shrugging off an air rifle attack and emphasizing a fundamental value for all artists: "The poet must not avert his eyes". Werner Herzog is a self-made, Munich-born director, claiming that all he needed to get started as a film maker was an encyclopedic entry that he read at the age of 14, along with a camera that he stole from the Munich Film School, and his work as a welder that funded his films in the 1960s. As a person, Herzog seems to possess a calm, intrepid and hugely observant force. He constantly comments on human desire and the crossing of paths between man and nature. Below we have a clip from Herzog's remake of Nosferatu, also rewritten by the director, and for what it lacks in the original masterpiece's sheer terror, makes up for in supreme atmosphere and emotion. Playing Count Dracula in this film is the eccentric actor, Klaus Kinski, whom Herzog used in two of arguably his greatest achievements, Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and whom he said was the only person who taught him anything. They were disfunctional best friends, known for their ugly arguments on the sets, where Kinski would be the extreme aggressor and Herzog the silent receiver; a silence which was once reported to have disturbed nearby native tribesmen. The importance of their collaborations of course, was the results on film. See below the comparison of Jason Robards' performance in the original Fitzcarraldo with that of Kinski. The main character of Brian "Fitzcarraldo" Fitzgerald is a man who becomes consumed by a mass obsession with a colossal project, which is what reportedly happened to Herzog, as an irony, when making the film. His works are mostly linked with a common theme centering around a tragic hero, with an outlandish ego, following a seemingly impossible dream. This theme is brought to reality in Herzog's hugely acclaimed documentary, Grizzly Man, an archive of footage and commentaries revolving around Timothy Treadwell, an environmentalist who spent 13 seasons living amongst the grizzly bears of Alaska, with the belief that he alone could save them from human threats, and was eventually killed by them. While Herzog defends Treadwell as a film maker, he makes it clear that the man was irresponsible as a naturalist. He uses this film to explain the normal occurrence of death, as well as the unforgiving environment of mother nature. Ultimately, it's an incredibly skillful portrayal of the life of a unique individual; whether or not you support Treadwell's work, or believe that he got what was coming to him, you will feel more in touch with him as a human being than you will with anyone else from reading or watching their biographies. This is what makes in my view, Werner Herzog's greatest achievement in his whole career. He is a director who expresses great anthropological philosophies and works with narrative in a documentary better than any one else.
Director's ProfileWerner HerzogNosferatu: Phantom Der NachtFitzcarraldoGrizzly ManKlaus KinskiTimothy Treadwell