Werner Herzog explores humanity

 

The Australian Cinémathèque’s free Werner Herzog cinema program continues with a selection of films that showcase the director’s ability to explore both the darkness and adventurous spirit within humanity.

Production still from Woyzeck 1979 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

On Friday 21 July 2017, two of Herzog’s esteemed collaborations with the tempestuous actor Klaus Kinski will be screened. At 6.00pm, see his adaptation of the renowned German play Woyzeck 1979. The film follows Kinski as the eponymous soldier Franz Woyzeck, who subjects himself to medical experiments to earn money for himself and his mistress – which push his already fragile sanity to breaking point.

I don’t believe there is a greater drama in the German language than Büchner’s ‘Woyzeck’; it’s a work of such stunning actuality.

Werner Herzog

At 7.45pm on Friday, the classic cinematic nightmare Aguirre, the Wrath of God 1972, which tracks a group of conquistadors down the Amazon River on their doomed search for the riches of El Dorado. Both films will be presented on imported 35mm prints direct from the Deutsches Kinemathek in Berlin.

Production still from Aguirre, the Wrath of God 1972 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

On Saturday 22 July, experience the meditative and joyous documentary Wheel of Time 2003 at 1.00pm. Wheel of Time studies the world’s largest Buddhist ritual, the Kalachakra initiation. Herzog captures incredible sights – including hundreds of thousands of worshippers praying in unison and the creation of an enormous sand mandala – but he focuses more intently on the inner devotion of those who have travelled so far for this ritual. Herzog was even invited personally by the Dalai Lama to make the film, after the Dalai Lama announced himself a fan of the director’s work.

Production still from Queen of the Desert 2015 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Transmission Films

At 2.45pm Saturday, Nicole Kidman stars as turn-of-the-century adventurer Gertrude Bell in Queen of the Desert 2015. Bell left her aristocratic existence to explore the Middle East, before eventually playing a pivotal role in the crafting of the nations that emerged in the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The film is Herzog’s deliberate throwback to the large-scale adventure filmmaking of classics such as Lawrence of Arabia 1962. Nicole Kidman embodies Bell with an aura of steely determination that drives her journey, with Herzog’s eye for majestic desert vistas as powerful as ever.

[When] I saw the letters and diaries of Gertrude Bell, hearing her voice and reading her voice, I immediately knew this was big. It was so big that I had to accept this challenge.

Werner Herzog

Explore the rest of the free ‘The Wrath and Reveries of Werner Herzog’ program which will continue until 19 August 2017. The program explores the films of Werner Herzog whose strange and spectacular works have enthralled audiences for nearly half a century.

DELVE DEEPER INTO the films of Werner Herzog

Curious to know what’s on at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA?

Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque
Feature image: Production still from Wheel of Time 2003 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

Italian Horror comes to GOMA

 

We’re delighted to announce that the Australian Cinémathèque and Brisbane Festival present a month of Italian Horror with our new program ‘Gothic, Giallo, Gore: Masters of Italian Horror’, which will screen between 8 September – 1 October 2017 at GOMA.

This program will celebrate the works of the three most prominent figures in the world of Italian horror cinema: Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento and will survey their key works, exploring the development of the giallo genre: from Bava’s deeply influential gothic works, Argento’s mastery of the lurid thriller, and the gory descendants found in Fulci’s oeuvre.

Production still from Blood and Black Lace 1964 / Director: Mario Bava / Image courtesy: Compass Film

The majority of the films will be shown on rare 35mm prints, drawn from national and private archives from around the world. The program also includes new digital restorations, including the vibrant 4k restoration of Suspiria 1977, the Cineteca Nazionale in Rome’s restoration of the director’s cut of Deep Red 1975, and an extremely rare screening of Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin 1971.

Production still from A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin 1971 / Director: Lucio Fulci / Image courtesy: First Line Films

Many of these films have not been screened theatrically in Australia for decades – if ever – and many are unlikely to make an appearance again for years. Fans of horror cinema can expect a wildly gruesome and exhilarating month of titles, with cult favourites and lesser known treats all making an appearance.

Production still from Suspiria 1977 / Director: Dario Argento / Image courtesy: Umbrella Entertainment

Gothic, Giallo, Gore: Masters of Italian Horror’ is a ticketed cinema program not to be missed on the big screen. The only thing more terrifying than the last three days of this program are the first twenty-one.

Curious to know what’s on at the Australian Cinémathèque?

Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque
Feature image: Production still from Tenebre (detail) 1982 / Director: Dario Argento / Image courtesy: Intramovies

Werner Herzog’s Dieter Dengler double

 

This Saturday 8 July, ‘The Wrath and Reveries of Werner Herzog’ continues with a double feature of the filmmaker’s two works on Dieter Dengler: the German-born American air force pilot who was captured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War after being shot down over Laos. Herzog made both the documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly 1997 and the feature film Rescue Dawn 2006 about Dengler’s experiences, though both play with the director’s penchant for the ‘ecstatic truth’ rather than pure literality. Both films will screen from archival 35mm film prints.

Herzog first made the documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly about Dengler’s experiences and his life in the decades after the War. He returns with Dengler to Laos and Thailand to travel through the sites and paths of those momentous months. Little Dieter Needs to Fly is an intimate and powerful documentary portrait of a man changed, but not broken, by his nightmarish experiences.

The story of Dieter and Duane was always one I wanted to tell in a feature film, a tale of friendship and survival. Although ‘Rescue Dawn’ came second, in spirit it really was the first film. ‘Little Dieter’ was strongly influenced by a feature film that hadn’t been made yet.

Werner Herzog

Production still from Rescue Dawn 2006 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Conquistador Entertainment

The director would then return to his subject with Rescue Dawn. Christian Bale gives a commanding performance as Dengler, with Bale’s extreme real-life weight loss for the role lending an air of pain and desperation to Dengler’s struggles within the camp. Herzog takes plenty of liberties with the real story behind the film, but Rescue Dawn manages to put on screen many of the seemingly unimaginable scenarios described in Little Dieter Needs to Fly.

Together, the two pieces of cinema play off each other wonderfully – offering a fuller portrait of a man and his painful past.

Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque
Feature image: 
Production still from Little Dieter Needs to Fly 1997 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

Werner Herzog and the burden of dreams

 

This weekend, the Australian Cinémathèque’s program ‘The Wrath and Reveries of Werner Herzog’ returns with a celebration of one of Herzog’s most monumental cinematic achievements. On Friday night 30 June, the filmmaker’s masterpiece Fitzcarraldo 1982 will screen at 6.00pm from an archival 35mm print shipped in from Berlin. Then, on Saturday 1 July at 2.45pm, the classic making-of documentary Burden of Dreams 1982 reveals the almighty struggles that went into making the film.

Fitzcarraldo follows Brian Sweeney ‘Fitzcarraldo’ Fitzgerald (a prodigious Klaus Kinski) as he decides to build an opera house in the middle of the Amazon jungle. However, he must first drag a 320-ton ship over a Peruvian mountain to access the lucrative rubber trees needed to fund it. This mission proves to be an undertaking of incredible scope, requiring an incredible drive to succeed at any cost.

Production still from Fitzcarraldo 1982 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

Herzog famously refused to fake this endeavour with props and replicas; instead he and his crew actually hauled a full steamship over a mountain in the heart of the South American jungle. This was no mere gimmick but instead a means of conjuring a truly potent sense of adversity and triumph that emanates from every frame of the film. Fitzcarraldo is an audacious epic of a scale that few filmmakers could hope to achieve. In matching his lead character’s obsessive quest on screen with his own behind the camera, Herzog has produced a titanic piece of cinema both startling and rousing in equal measure.

Burden of Dreams opens up the incredible tale of the production to audiences with some of the most amazing behind-the-scenes footage ever filmed. The documentary was shot by Herzog’s friend and fellow filmmaker Les Blank, whose inquisitive camera captures the gruelling work that went into Fitzcarraldo‘s creation: from a wildly unpredictable lead actor in Klaus Kinski, to the hundreds of extras, and the hauling of the 320-ton ship over a mountain. It not only expands the mystique of the feature film it covers, but itself remains in many ways just as grand of an artistic achievement. Burden of Dreams will screen with Les Blank’s short film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe 1980, which is as literal and accurate a title as any film has ever had.

Production still from Burden of Dreams 1982 / Director: Les Blank / Image courtesy: Les Blank Films

Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque
Feature image: Production still from Fitzcarraldo 1982 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

Werner Herzog’s forgotten dreams and antarctic encounters

 

On Saturday 17 June, enjoy free screenings of two of Werner Herzog’s most jubilant explorations of the extremes of the world: his documentaries Encounters at the End of the World 2007 at 1.00pm and Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010 at 3.00pm.

Production still from Encounters at the End of the World 2007 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

These two documentaries are triumphs of modern documentary filmmaking. In both circumstances, Herzog travelled with a limited crew (for Encounters, only his cameraperson; for Cave, just three other crew members) under restricted conditions. Yet these boundaries only make the material more fascinating – cutting to the core of what is so enthralling about these subjects. Both documentaries offer footage which can never be replicated and grant admittance to two of the most inaccessible places on the planet.

‘Encounters at the End of the World’ … is an invocation of all that is wonderful on the planet, an articulation of my amazement and wonder at the Antarctic landscape, a celebration of the continent.

Werner Herzog

Encounters at the End of the World is a glorious celebration of Antarctica and the people who work there. Herzog travels to the McMurdo Research Station to visit its scientists, joining them as they travel across the wilderness and into the icy water below.

They study the animals that inhabit the landscape with the director’s usual unusualness – foregoing the typical reverent treatment of the creatures, instead showing both their beauty and their potential for madness.

Production stills from Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Rialto Distribution

For Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog was granted exclusive access into the Chauvet Caves in France, home to the oldest known cave paintings in the world. In order to ensure the careful preservation of the caves, Herzog was restricted to just a four-person crew and only a few hours of filming each day.

Despite these constraints, he and his team captures the breathtaking paintings of animals – bison, horses, cave bears, mammoths among them – in vivid detail, bringing to life the incredible power of these images after more than 32,000 years on the walls of the caves.

I WENT IN AS A POET, HOPING TO ACTIVATE THE AUDIENCE’S IMAGINATION. IF ‘CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS’ WERE FULL ONLY OF SCIENTIFIC FACTS, IT WOULD BE INSTANTLY FORGETTABLE. MY IDEA WAS ALWAYS TO STEP ASIDE AND LET THE ART DO THE TALKING.

WERNER HERZOG

Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque
Feature image: Production still from Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Rialto Distribution
QAGOMA acknowledges the generous assistance of Werner Herzog Film GmbH, Vienna; the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra; and the Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin in providing materials for this program. Program curated by Robert Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque.

Werner Herzog opening weekend

 

The free cinema program ‘The Wrath and Reveries of Werner Herzog’ opens this Friday night at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA and will run until 19 August 2017. The program explores the films of German filmmaker Werner Herzog, whose strange and spectacular works have enthralled audiences for nearly half a century.

Production still from Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World 2016 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Madman Entertainment

The opening night begins at 6.00pm with a screening of Herzog’s recent documentary Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World 2016, a wonderfully engaging examination of the joys and ordeals that the internet has wrought upon the world. It is a captivating insight into our technological future, guided by Herzog’s singular presence.

WHEN WE SPEAK OF THE HORRORS OF THE INTERNET, IT’S NOT THE INTERNET WE ARE TALKING ABOUT – IT’S HUMANS. AND HUMAN NATURE MANIFESTS ITSELF IN A WAY WE HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE, BECAUSE IT’S ANONYMOUS AND IT’S ON A MASSIVE SCALE

WERNER HERZOG

Production still from Plastic Bag 2009 / Director: Ramin Bahrani / Image courtesy: Gigantic Pictures

The screening will be accompanied by Ramin Bahrani’s short film Plastic Bag 2009, which features Herzog as the inner monologue of a plastic bag travelling across the globe in search of its Maker. Bahrani takes this potentially saccharine premise and elevates it with his keen eye and rich understanding of human nature. His inventive script is brought to life by Herzog’s incomparable delivery.

Production still from Aguirre, the Wrath of God 1972 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

At 8.15pm, the spectacular Aguirre, the Wrath of God 1972 – a journey down the Amazon and into the heart of darkness. This masterpiece of German cinema will be presented on a lush 35mm film print – imported directly from the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin. The film is a mesmerising tale of greed and obsession, following a group of 16th Century conquistadors as they search for the mythical riches of El Dorado in the heart of the Amazon jungle. It is one of the director’s greatest achievements and should not be missed on the big screen.

THE JUNGLE OF ‘AGUIRRE’ IS NEVER SOME LUSH, BEAUTIFUL ENVIRONMENT THERE FOR DECORATION, AS IT MIGHT BE IN A TELEVISION COMMERCIAL. IT’S A REPRESENTATION OF OUR MOST INTENSE AND FORCEFUL DREAMS, OUR DEEPEST EMOTIONS AND NIGHTMARES

WERNER HERZOG

Production still from Signs of Life 1968 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

The following day, Saturday 3 June, catch Herzog’s debut feature film Signs of Life 1968 at 1pm. It is a powerful depiction of the deranging influence of war and isolation. It is the story of a German soldier Stroszek, who is sent to a Greek island to recuperate after being wounded in combat – but instead, he begins to succumb to a creeping madness. It is the work of a first-time filmmaker with an expansive vision and a key moment in the director’s storied career.

‘SIGNS OF LIFE’ CONCERNS ITSELF NOT WITH A PARTICULAR ERA OR MILITARY CONFLICT, BUT WITH THE IDEA OF PUTTING INSTRUMENTS OF WAR INTO THE HANDS OF INDIVIDUALS.

WERNER HERZOG

Then, at 2.45pm, see the cult favourite Even Dwarfs Started Small 1970. When the inmates of an unnamed institution rebel against their guards and escape their prison, the freedom they discover only reveals the bizarre mix of grotesqueries and banalities of which they are capable. This surreal film is less interested in a strict narrative than the blackly comic anarchic mood conjured by the activities of its characters. It is a beguiling exploration of not only cruel restrictions of fascism but also of the darkness that lies in the heart of mankind when no longer shackled by societal bounds.

Production still from Even Dwarfs Started Small 1970 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH

Be sure to mark your calendar for the other free Werner Herzog screenings that will be happening throughout June.

QAGOMA acknowledges the generous assistance of Werner Herzog Film GmbH, Vienna; the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra; and the Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin in providing materials for this program. Program curated by Robert Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque.

Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque
Feature image: Production still from Signs of Life 1968 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH