Werner Herzog and “Lo and Behold”

Posted on June 26, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Werner Herzog is not only one of the most brilliant directors in the history of world cinema; he is also unique in the span of his films, equally impressive in narrative features and documentaries. After a decade of pleading from the AFI Docs festival for the chance to recognize his work at their Charles Guggenheim Symposium, the busy director finally agreed to attend and permit a tribute to his work that included an interview on stage and a screening of his new film about the internet, “Lo And Behold: Reveries of the Connected World.”

Herzog was interviewed by another outstanding director, Ramin Bahrani (“Goodbye Solo,” “99 Homes”). Both were championed by Roger Ebert, who brought them together for a collaboration — the wonderful short film “Future States,” with Herzog providing the voice for the existentially troubled central character, a plastic bag.

Herzog’s documentary may cover some of the most advanced technology in the world, but he does not have a cell phone, he says, “for cultural reasons. Our examination of the world should not only be through applications.” When Bahrani complimented his “location-based” images, Herzog said, “I’m good with locations. I can direct landscapes.” Whether he is shooting burning oil fields in Kuwait (“Lessons of Darkness”), the face of a deaf/blind woman on her first airplane flight (“Land of Silence and Darkness”), or the soft-drink-machine size computer that sent the very first two-letter message over the internet (“Lo and Behold”), his camera movements and images are vital and engaging. He spoke of the importance of being on top of the mechanics of filming (“I am a very pragmatic filmmaker”) and of the poetry, a sort of choreography of the camera, as he conveys “the dance between the actors and the location.”

He distinguished his documentary films from the prevalent approach to non-fiction filmmaking, which he considers more like journalism, “belonging more to television than in a theater.” He is frank about his departure from the conventions of cinema verite; he has no hesitation in asking a subject to move or answer again, to “go beyond the mere facts” in search of “narrative power.” “Illumination is more important than facts….I’m looking for deeper poetry.” But that does not necessarily mean pretty pictures. He will avoid shooting a sunset, calling it “romanticized beauty.”

He says there are things you cannot learn in film school, like “know(ing) the heart of men.” What filmmakers should learn in film school are the tools it takes to get the film made: “lock picking and forging shooting permits.”

Herzog makes films when “there is a story so big I cannot resist.” And he does not stop. “I plow on.”

Related Tags:


Directors Film History Movie History Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Into the Abyss

Posted on November 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and some disturbing images
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: References to drugs and alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: The movie concerns the violent murder of three people and the aftermath, many references to violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 16, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B0067EKZ62

Werner Herzog continues his exploration of the darkness and the light within the human spirit with “Into the Abyss,” a documentary about why and how we kill each other, in violation of the law and directed by it.


In Texas, where as many as two prisoners are executed each week, Herzog speaks to the people connected to one crime, the senseless murder of three people by a couple of teenagers, who were just trying to steal a hot car.  Herzog remains off-camera as he interviews the men, now in their 20’s, who are in prison, one just days from his scheduled execution, the woman whose mother and brother were two of the victims, the chaplain and the correctional officer who are the last people the condemned prisoner sees, the police officer who investigated the crime, and others who help to tell the bleak story of loss and limits.

Herzog lets each of them tell us not just what they think but who they are.  He lets us discover for ourselves the telling details like the sign that says “Dream” over the fireplace in the living room of the corrections officer as he tells us that after over 100 executions he just could not do it any more and the tree growing through the floorboards of the car once deemed worth three lives, now rotting in the police impound lot.  We meet the father of one of the two prisoners whose only gift to his son was pleading with the jury not to sentence him to death.  A woman describes falling in love with one of the men in prison and marrying him there.  Both have surprises that confound our expectations.  Many of the interviews present a bleak portrait of limited vistas and opportunities alongside limitless need for love.

Indeed, no matter what views you bring to this film, you will come away enlarged, moved, changed as much from the compassion and generosity of Herzog himself as from the people he interviews. Herzog, who had just an hour with each of his subjects and shows us his first and only conversations with them, has made a film that expands his consideration of the human struggle for connection and meaning.


Related Tags:


Crime Documentary Movies -- format

Smile of the Week: ‘Werner Herzog’ reads Where’s Waldo?

Posted on April 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm

The brilliant movie director Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man,” “Encounters at the End of the World,” “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” and of course “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe”), here is gently spoofed by an actor for his inclination toward dark interpretations as he tells us what he thinks is going on with Waldo.

Related Tags:


Books Shorts Smile of the Week
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik