For nearly half a century, Werner Herzog (b. 1942) has crafted films with audacity and fearless vision. First emerging as part of the groundbreaking German New Wave in the late 1960s, Herzog has continued to consistently produce mesmerising tales of obsession, conquest and the sublime. His films and documentaries blur the line between fact and fiction, reaching for higher, stranger truths. Although Herzog’s filmmaking is often overshadowed by the off-screen sagas surrounding his productions, his cinematic legacy is full of triumphs both grand and intimate in scale.
YOU SHOULD LOOK STRAIGHT AT A FILM; THAT’S THE ONLY WAY TO SEE ONE. FILM IS NOT THE ART OF SCHOLARS BUT OF ILLITERATES.
This free program ‘The wrath and reveries of Werner Herzog‘ (2 June – 19 August 2017) presents a wide selection of works drawn from the director’s storied career – from early German masterworks to Hollywood eccentricities, and all of the spellbinding documentaries in-between. It reveals a filmmaker with an artistic voice behind the camera that is as singular and recognisable as the actual one so often heard in front of it.
The opening night of the program highlights the dynamic breadth of this filmmaker’s body of work: at 6.00pm Fri 2 June, his entertaining and wonderfully engaging documentary about the internet and the digital world Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World 2016 will screen alongside the short film Plastic Bag 2009. Plastic Bag was directed by Herzog’s friend and fellow filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, and it uses Herzog’s iconic Bavarian brogue perfectly to narrate the existential unease of a plastic bag searching for its Maker. Afterwards, the haunting classic Aguirre, the Wrath of God 1972 will screen at 8.15pm. The film is the nightmarish tale of a group of conquistadors travelling down the Amazon in search of the mythic El Dorado – instead, they find only death and madness.
Herzog’s renowned series of collaborations with lead actor Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, the Wrath of God 1972, Nosferatu the Vampyre 1979, Woyzeck 1979, Fitzcarraldo 1982, Cobra Verde 1987) will all screen from 35mm film prints generously supplied by Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin – a rare opportunity to see these classics of German cinema in their original format.
The program also features many of the director’s enthralling documentaries. Herzog is a rare filmmaker who has continuously produced both feature films and documentary works of a consistently high calibre. An early documentary, the deeply moving Land of Silence and Darkness 1971 (1.00pm Sat 10 June), will appear in a special 16mm presentation. The documentary follows Fini Straubinger, a German woman who became deaf and blind in her childhood and who subsequently dedicated her life to helping others who struggled to communicate.
Included also are two rare theatrical screenings of one of Herzog’s most recent titles, the stunning volcano documentary Into the Inferno 2016 (8.00pm Fri 7 July and 3.00pm Sat 5 August). The film is a Netflix original production and has almost only been seen on laptops and TVs around the world. Now, the spectacular eruptions and mighty blasts of the volcanoes can be seen and heard at the GOMA cinema.
Werner Herzog is one of the greatest of all living filmmakers and these extraordinary pieces of cinema should not be missed on the big screen.
Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA.
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.
Feature image: Production still from My Best Fiend 1999 / Director: Werner Herzog / Image courtesy: Werner Herzog Film GmbH