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