"There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization."
—"Minnesota Declaration", 1999
A Crazy Awesome
leader of the German New Wave. A man beloved on the Art House circuit and with several mainstream successes under his belt. His films, both fictional and documentary, are often slow and atmospheric, but are universally beautiful and human. Really, his films only have one subject - the infinite power of human will and the subsequent potential for self-destruction.
He has made films in both German and English.Has Made Such Films As:
... and many others.
Werner Herzog's films provide examples of:
- Adam Westing: Herzog has a number of acting credits and is often playing a parody of himself. The Boondocks and Incident at Loch Ness are two examples. Also appeared as a parody of himself in The Simpsons
- Brutal Honesty: Herzog is known for making strong, blunt statements in his smooth, almost lyrical tone of voice.
- Creator Thumbprint: His films all feature men with strange abilities or obsessions, and he has a hatred of chickens. In The Grand he plays a gambler with an obsession over his pet chicken.
- The Determinator: He's been this on several films, notably Fitzcarraldo, in which a 320-ton ship is dragged up one side of a hill and down the other side. For the film, Herzog had the cast drag the ship up one side of the hill and down the other.
- In 1974, Herzog heard that a friend of his, the film historian Lotte Eisner, who was then in her late 70s, was ill and not expected to live much longer. She was in Paris. He was in Munich, 480 miles away. He decided that if he walked from Munich to Paris to see her, she might get better. So he did. See here for how it worked out.
- Documentary: Several, including one Mockumentary.
- Dramatisation: Unusually, his documentaries employ this. He freely admits to embellishing details in them, such as Dieter Dengler opening and closing doors obsessively in Little Dieter Wants To Fly - that was invented by Herzog for dramatic effect.
- Eating Shoes: The documentary filmmaker Errol Morris was having trouble completing his debut feature Gates of Heaven. In order to provoke Morris into finishing the film, Herzog told Morris that he'd never finish it — but that if he did finish it, he, Herzog, would eat his own shoe. Morris finished the film. Herzog got the great Berkeley chef Alice Waters to cook his shoe in garlic, herbs and stock for five hours, and he ate it in public - except for the sole, because as he explained, you never eat the bones of the chicken. The whole thing was filmed by director Les Blank and released as the aptly-titled short documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.
- Fauxlosophic Narration / Nietzsche Wannabe: Albeit in a good way. BBC film critic Mark Kermode (the interviewer when Herzog was shot with the air rifle) in particular seems to be a fan of Herzog's narration style and called him "The great Germanic nihilist". For example he thought Eat, Pray, Love would have been improved if "Werner Herzog had come on and told her (Julia Roberts) there is no God. The end".
I get the feeling the abyss looked back into Werner Herzog and goes "blimey..." - Mark Kermode
- He Also Did: He acted in protegé Harmony Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely, and played the Big Bad in Jack Reacher.
- Humans Are Bastards: Relentlessly examined in his work. His bastards usually have layers, but they're still bastards.
- Large Ham: Herzog provides the narration for his documentaries. While his diction is generally even, the things he says are this.
- Lemony Narrator: A common component of his Signature Style is the contrast between his over-the-top narration and the stark, genuine nature of the footage he is talking over.
"[Subject] has a non-traditional method for fishing." *gunshot
- Long Runner: He's coming up on forty years, with almost a film a year.
- Nature Is Not Nice: Most notably in Grizzly Man, in which Herzog narrates about how beautiful Timothy Treadwell's footage is, while at the same time lambasting him for being so naive about it. Also a theme in Aguirre and Rescue Dawn.
"Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they sing, they just screech in pain."
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: ... not that there's anything wrong with it.
- Scenery Porn: The man can photograph a scene. He has also stated that he has a thing for forests, in case that was not evident from his films.
- Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism: From idealistic Fitzcarraldo to cynical Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Just comparing The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser to Stroszek can cause whiplash.
- With Friends Like These...: His well-known friendship with Klaus Kinski was..."rocky" would be an understatement. Herzog made a film about their relationship entitled, appropriately, My Best Fiend.