The Films of Werner Herzog: Between Mirage and History
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A challenging range of films is covered offering the readers ways of understanding why, whatever the controversies surrounding Herzog and his films, he remains a major and popular international filmmaker.
1980, 57). At other times it seems to be the loneliness of others which leads them to pour out their hearts to the weary and mute pilgrim. One elderly woman collecting wood in the forest, for example, gives Herzog a genealogical history of all of her dead children, talking “three times as fast as normal, since she is aware that I want to go on” (Herzog, 1980, 40). This particular anecdote, like many others, communicates a sense of strangeness, its absurdity is almost too literary, as if the event
make each actor a sort of carved wooden prop in an Oberammergau puppet play. Where his Aborigine film is different is in the way Herzog has succeeded in constructing scenes to work mainly through subtly nuanced contrasts or bold clashes in performance and acting styles. They determine the pace and rhythm of the film, and give substance to the conflict of different temporal orders: dreamtime and progress, the patience of the land against the impatience of profit, or a feeling of loyalty against
that look as if they existed prior to man, and in a certain sense seem indifferent to man. Nonetheless, his films are committed to an animistic view: when human beings appear, it is either as visionaries or natives that they can inhabit the land, or rather, be inhabited by it: many take on the shape and texture of the environment that surrounds them. Their appearance and behavior give the spectator the illusion of intimacy which is based on reading their environment as an expression – if not of
differentiates: Whether Woyzeck or Stroszek, Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu or Kaspar Hauser, these characters are moved by inner forces that for Herzog remain inexplicable, unnameable and undescribable. The inscrutability of the springs that move them erects a certain affective distance – a kind of obdurate clarity – between them and us. Such figures are virtually canonized by Herzog for the uniqueness and the inaccessibility of their passions and their inner life. (Carroll, 1985, 35–6). The
principles? How am I going to modify and develop this genre further?” (Walsh, 1979, 25).Heart of Glass bears some of the external trappings of a Heimatfilm, to be sure: the Bavarian Forest and the peasant milieu replete with dialect and local color. Nonetheless, Herzog does not mean to suggest the provincial Heimatfilm of the 1950s, those picture-postcard indulgences with titles like Green is the Heather; Black Forest Girl, and To See the Homeland Once Again.7 “The locations have a more dismal