Werner Herzog (born September 5, 1942 in Munich as Werner Stipetić) is a German movie director and screenwriter who has emerged as the most successful of the German New Wave filmmakers. He has also dabbled in acting and voiceover work.
He is beloved on the arthouse circuit and with several mainstream successes under his belt, most notably with actor Klaus Kinski. 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.
- Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
- Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
- The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
- Heart of Glass (1976)
- Stroszek (1977)
- Nosferatu (1979)
- Woyzeck (1979)
- Fitzcarraldo (1982)
- Cobra Verde (1987)
- Lessons of Darkness (1992)
- Little Dieter Wants to Fly (1997)
- Invincible (2001)
- Incident At Loch Ness (2004)
- Grizzly Man (2005)
- Rescue Dawn (2007)
- Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
- The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)
- Queen of the Desert (2015)
- Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (2016)
- Salt and Fire (2016)
- Meeting Gorbachev (2018)
- Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980) (see below)
- What Dreams May Come (1998) as Face
- The Boondocks (2010) as himself (voice)
- The Simpsons (2011-2019) as Walter Hotenhoffer (voice)
- Jack Reacher (2012) as The Zec
- Metalocalypse (2012) as Ishnifus Meaddle (voice)
- Penguins of Madagascar (2014) as Documentary Filmmaker (voice)
- Freaks of Nature (2015) as Perfect Being (voice)
- Rick and Morty (2015) as The Old Reptile (voice)
- The Mandalorian (2019) as The Client
Werner Herzog's works provide examples of:
- Achievements in Ignorance: He spent his childhood in a remote mountain village and had no idea there was such a thing as movies until age 11. When he finally was introduced to them, he thought they were real and thus got very upset at any mistakes he saw that none of his friends cared about, basically giving himself a crash course in the language of cinema.
- Adam Westing: Herzog has a number of acting credits and is often playing either a parody of himself, such as in The Simpsons and Incident At Loch Ness, or using his very unique voice to play a very serious character saying totally ridiculous things.
"In Bavaria, we have a saying. [...] It means This is the most depressing fucking kid I've ever met in my life."
- In The Boondocks he appears as himself filming documentary footage:
"Two beautiful creatures trapped in a prison of another's design like a madman lost in a supermarket. One is freed while the other dies alone in a glass tomb, which used to contain farts."
- Also in American Dad!, providing the closing narration for the episode "Ricky Spanish":
"I've dwelled among the humans, their entire culture is built around their penises. It is funny to say they are small. It is funny to say they are big. I've been at parties where humans have held bottles, pencils, thermoses in front of themselves and called out 'Hey look at me! I'm Mr. So-And-So Dick! I've got such-and-such for a penis!' I never saw it fail to get a laugh."
- In Rick and Morty, as an alien advisor criticizing the human race:
Documentary Filmmaker: Antarctica, an inhospitable wasteland, but even here, on the Earth's frozen bottom, we find life. And not just any life: penguins. Joyous, frolicking, waddling, cute and cuddly life. Look at them, tumbling onto their chubby bum bums. Who could take these frisky snow-clowns...
- In Parks and Recreation he plays the owner of a former home for insane doll-head factory employees trying to sell the house to April and Andy.
- In Penguins of Madagascar, he plays a documentary filmmaker and plays up his reputation for dramatic narration and taking artistic license with his documentary subjects.
- Central Theme: The infinite power of human will and the subsequent potential for self-destruction.
- Creator Thumbprint: Many of his films feature men with strange abilities or obsessions, especially ones involving nature, and he has a hatred of chickens. In The Grand he plays a gambler with an obsession over his pet chicken.
- 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.
- He Also Did: He acted in protegé Harmony Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely, and played the Big Bad in Jack Reacher, fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing a Bond villain-like character on film. Most recently, he's been cast as an Imperial remnant leader in The Mandalorian.
- 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*
- Money, Dear Boy: He ended up playing a role in The Mandalorian in order to fund a future project, although he did like the script and the role he ended up having.
- 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."
- 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.
- Self-Deprecation: As discussed under Adam Westing, he is perfectly willing to lampoon his reputation as a hyper-intense Germanic semi-lunatic with a tendency to say very enigmatically dramatic and nihilistic things about nature and the human condition.
- Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism: His films are all over the place. 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", and that would be an understatement. Herzog made a film about their relationship entitled, appropriately, My Best Fiend.
- Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Herzog strongly frowns upon using storyboards (referring to it as a tool of cowards) or shooting any excess footage in his films.