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Herzog, Werner

HERZOG, Werner

Nationality: German. Born: Werner Stipetic in Sachrang, 5 September 1942. Education: Classical Gymnasium, Munich, until 1961; University of Munich, early 1960s. Family: Married journalist Martje Grohmann, one son. Career: Worked as a welder in a steel factory for U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration; founded Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, 1966; walked from Munich to Paris to visit film historian Lotte Eisner, 1974. Awards: Bundesfilmpreis, and Silver Bear, Berlinale, for Signs of Life, 1968; Bundespreis, and Special Jury Prize, Cannes Festival, for Every Man for Himself and God against All, 1975; Best Director, Cannes Festival, for Fitzcarraldo, 1982. Address: Turkenstr. 91, D-80799 Münich, Germany.

Films as Director (beginning 1966, films are produced or co-produced by Werner Herzog Filmproduktion)


Herakles (+ pr, sc)


Spiel im Sand (Game in the Sand) (unreleased) (+ pr, sc)


Die beispiellose Verteidigung der Festung Deutschkreuz (TheUnprecedented Defense of the Fortress of Deutschkreuz) (+ pr, sc)


Lebenszeichen (Signs of Life) (+ sc, pr)


Letzte Worte (Last Words) (+ pr, sc); Massnahmen gegenFanatiker (Precautions against Fanatics) (+ pr, sc)


Die fliegenden Ärzte von Ostafrika (The Flying Doctors ofEast Africa) (+ pr, sc); Fata Morgana (Mirage) (+ sc, pr)


Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen (Even Dwarfs StartedSmall) (+ pr, sc, mu arrangements); Behinderte Zukunft (Handicapped Future) (+ pr, sc)


Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit (Land of Silence andDarkness) (+ pr, sc)


Aguirre, der Zorn Göttes (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) (+ pr, sc)


Die grosse Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner (The GreatEcstasy of the Sculptor Steiner) (+ pr, sc); Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Every Man for Himself and Godagainst All; The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser) (+ pr, sc)


How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck (+ pr, sc); Mitmir will keiner spielen (No One Will Play with Me) (+ pr, sc); Herz aus Glas (Heart of Glass) (+ pr, co-sc, bit role as glass carrier)


La Soufrière (+ pr, sc, narration, appearance)


Stroszek (+ pr, sc)


Nosferatu—Phantom der Nacht (Nosferatu, the Vampire) (+ pr, sc, bit role as monk); Woyzeck (+ pr, sc)


Woyzeck; Glaube und Währung (Creed and Currency)


Fitzcarraldo (+ pr, sc)


Where the Green Ants Dream (Wo Die Grünen AmeisenTraümen)


Ballade vom Kleinen Soldaten (Ballad of the Little Soldier); Gasherbrum—Der leuchtende Berg (Gasherbrum—TheDark Glow of the Mountains)


Cobra Verde (+ sc)


Wodaabe—Die Hirten der Sonne (Herdsmen of the Sun); LesGaulois (The French)


Es ist nicht leicht ein Gott zu sein (It Isn't Easy Being God)


Echos aus Einem Dustern Reich (Echoes from a SomberKingdom)


Schrie aus Stein (Scream of Stone); Jag Mandir (The Eccentric Private Theatre of the Maharajah of Udaipur)


Lektionen in Finsternis (Lessons of Darkness)


Bells from the Deep (Glocken aus der Tiefe)


Die Verwandlung der Welt in Musik (The Transformation ofthe World into Music)


Tod für fünf Stimmen (Death for Five Voices) (+ sc)


Little Dieter Needs to Fly (+ sc, Narrator)


Mein liebster Feind—Klaus Kinski


Invincible (+ co-sc)


By HERZOG: books—

Werner Herzog: Drehbücher I, Munich, 1977.

Werner Herzog: Drehbücher II, Munich 1977.

Sur le chemin des glaces: Munich-Paris du. 23.11 au 14.12.1974, Paris, 1979.

Werner Herzog: Stroszek, Nosferatu: ZweiFilmerzählungen, Munich, 1979.

Screenplays, New York, 1980.

Fitzcarraldo: The Original Story, Seattle, 1983.

Cobra Verde, Munich, 1987.

Vom Gehen im Eis (Of Walking in Ice), London, 1994.

By HERZOG: articles—

"Rebellen in Amerika," in Filmstudio (Frankfurt), May 1964.

"Neun Tage eines Jahres," in Filmstudio (Frankfurt), September 1964.

"Mit den Wölfen heulen," in Filmkritik (Munich), July 1968.

"Warum ist überhaupt Seiendes und nicht vielmehr Nichts?," in Kino (West Berlin), March/April 1974.

Interview with S. Murray, in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), December 1974.

"Every Man for Himself," interview with D. L. Overbey, in Sightand Sound (London), Spring 1975.

Interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), May 1975.

L'Énigme de Kaspar Hauser, on cutting continuity and dialogue, in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), June 1976.

"Signs of Life: Werner Herzog," interview with Jonathan Cott, in Rolling Stone (New York), 18 November 1976.

Aguirre, la colère de Dieu, on cutting continuity and dialogue, in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 June 1978.

"I Feel That I'm Close to the Center of Things," interview with L. O'Toole, in Film Comment (New York), November/December 1979.

Interview with B. Steinborn and R. von Naso, in Filmfaust (Frankfurt), February/March 1982.

Interview with G. Bechtold and G. Griksch, in Filmfaust (Frankfurt), October/November 1984.

Interview in Time Out (London), 20 April 1988.

"Io e il mio cinema," in Filmcritica (Siena), March 1990.

Interview with Bion Steinborn, in Filmfaust (Frankfurt am Main), July-October 1990.

Interview with Z. Nevelõs and P. Sneé, in Filmkultura (Budapest), June 1994.

"Operní patos a Blaise Pascal. Rozhovor s Wernerem Herzogem," an interview with Tomáš Liška, in Film a Doba (Prague), Winter 1994.

"L'enfer vert," an interview with Bernard Génin and others, in Télérama (Paris), 5 April 1995.

On HERZOG: books—

Greenberg, Alan, Heart of Glass, Munich, 1976.

Schütte, Wolfram, and others, Herzog/Kluge/Straub, Vienna, 1976.

Franklin, James, New German Cinema: From Oberhausen to Hamburg, Boston, 1983.

Phillips, Klaus, editor, New German Filmmakers: From Oberhausenthrough the 1970s, New York, 1984.

Corrigan, Timothy, The Films of Werner Herzog: Between Mirageand History, New York, 1986.

Elsaesser, Thomas, New German Cinema: A History, London, 1989.

Murray, Bruce A., and Christopher J. Wickham, editors, Framing thePast: The Historiography of German Cinema and Television, Carbondale, Illinois, 1992.

On HERZOG: articles—

"Herzog Issue" of Cinema (Zurich), vol. 18, no. 1, 1972.

Wetzel, Kraft, "Werner Herzog," in Kino (West Berlin), April/May 1973.

Bachmann, Gideon, "The Man on the Volcano," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Autumn 1977.

Dorr, John, "The Enigma of Werner Herzog," in Millimeter (New York), October 1977.

Walker, B., "Werner Herzog's Nosferatu," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1978.

Andrews, N., "Dracula in Delft," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1978.

Morris, George, "Werner Herzog," in International Film Guide1979, London, 1978.

Cleere, E., "Three Films by Werner Herzog," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), vol. 3, no. 4, 1980.

Van Wert, W.F., "Hallowing the Ordinary, Embezzling the Everyday: Werner Herzog's Documentary Practice," in QuarterlyReview of Film Studies (Pleasantville, New York), Spring 1980.

Davidson, D., "Borne out of Darkness: The Documentaries of Werner Herzog," in Film Criticism (Edinboro, Pennsylvania), Fall 1980.

"Werner Herzog," in Film Dope (London), March 1982.

Goodwin, M., "Herzog the God of Wrath," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), June 1982.

Carroll, Noel, "Herzog, Presence, and Paradox," in Persistence ofVision (Maspeth, New York), Fall 1985.

Kennedy, Harlan, "Amazon Grace," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1986.

Davidson, David, "Borne out of Darkness: The Documentaries of Werner Herzog," in Film Criticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), no. 1/2, 1987.

Mouton, Jan, "Werner Herzog's Stroszek: A Fairy-Tale in an Age of Disenchantment," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 15, no. 2, 1987.

Caltvedt, Lester, "Herzog's Fitzcarraldo and the Rubber Era," in Film and History (New York), vol. 18, no. 4, 1988.

"Herzog Issue" of Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Summer 1988.

Elsaesser, Thomas, "Werner Herzog: Tarzan Meets Parsifal," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), May 1988.

Stiles, Victoria M., "Fact and Fiction: Nature's Endgame in Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), July 1989.

Uhrík, Štefan, "Werner Herzog o ryzyku filmowania," in Kino (Warsaw), July 1991.

Pezzotta, Alberto, "La realtà e il mito," in Filmcritica (Siena), May 1992.

Klerk, Nico de, and others, "De helden van de jaren zeventig," in Skrien (Amsterdam), June-July 1992.

Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), November 1993.

Andrew, Geoff, "Plight Relief," in Time Out (London), 17 April 1996.

Hogue, Peter, "Genre-busting. Documentaries as Movies," in FilmComment (New York), July-August 1996.

Stiles, Victoria M., "Woyzeck in Focus: Werner Herzog and His Critics," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 24, no. 3, 1996.

Wiberg, Matts, in Filmhäftet (Stockholm), vol. 26, no. 104, 1998.

McCarthy, Todd, "My Best Friend (Mein liebster Feind)," in Variety (New York), 24 May 1999.

On HERZOG: films—

Weisenborn, Christian, and Erwin Keusch, Was ich bin sind meineFilme, Munich, 1978.

Blank, Les, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, U.S., 1980.

Blank, Les, Burden of Dreams, U.S., 1982.

* * *

Werner Herzog, more than any director of his generation, has through his films embodied German history, character, and cultural richness. While references to verbal and other visual arts would be out of place in treating most film directors, they are key to understanding Herzog. For his techniques he reaches back into the early part of the twentieth century to the Expressionist painters and filmmakers; back to the Romantic painters and writers for the luminance and allegorization of landscape and the human figure; even further beyond into sixteenth-century Mannerist extremes of Mathias Günwald; and throughout his nation's heritage for that peculiarly Germanic grotesque. In all these technical and expressive veins, one finds the qualities of exaggeration, distortion, and the sublimation of the ugly.

More than any, "grotesque" presents itself as a useful term to define Herzog's work. His use of an actor like Klaus Kinski, whose singularly ugly face is sublimated by Herzog's camera, can best be described by such a term. Persons with physical defects like deafness and blindness, and dwarfs, are given a type of grandeur in Herzog's artistic vision. Herzog, as a contemporary German living in the shadow of remembered Nazi atrocities, demonstrates a penchant for probing the darker aspects of human behavior. Herzog's vision renders the ugly and horrible sublime, while the beautiful is omitted and, when included, destroyed or made to vanish (like the beautiful Spanish noblewoman in Aguirre).

Closely related to the grotesque in Herzog's films is the influence of German expressionism on him. Two of Herzog's favorite actors, Klaus Kinski and Bruno S., have been compared to Conrad Veidt and Fritz Kortner, prototypical actors of German expressionistic dramas and films during the teens and 1920s. Herzog's actors make highly stylized, indeed often stock, gestures; in close-ups, their faces are set in exaggerated grimaces.

The characters of Herzog's films often seem deprived of free will, merely reacting to an absurd universe. Any exertion of free will in action leads ineluctably to destruction, death, or at best frustration by the unexpected. The director is a satirist who demonstrates what is wrong with the world but, as yet, seems unable or unwilling to articulate the ways to make it right; indeed, one is at a loss to find in his world view any hope, let alone prescription, for improvement.

Herzog's mode of presentation has been termed by some critics as romantic and by others as realistic. This seeming contradiction can be resolved by an approach that compares him with those Romantic artists who first articulated elements of the later realistic approach. Critics have found in the quasi-photographic paintings of Caspar David Friedrich an analogue for Herzog's super-realism. As with these artists, there is an aura of unreality in Herzog's realism. Everything is seen through a camera that rarely goes out of intense, hard focus. Often it is as if his camera is deprived of the normal range of human vision, able only to perceive part of the whole through a telescope or a microscope.

In this strange blend of romanticism and realism lies the paradoxical quality of Herzog's talent: he, unlike Godard, Resnais, or Altman, has not made great innovations in film language; if his style is to be defined at all it is as an eclectic one; and yet, his films do have a distinctive stylistic quality. He renders the surface reality of things with such an intensity that the viewer has an uncanny sense of seeing the essence beyond. Aguirre, for example, is unrelenting in its concentration on filth, disease, and brutality; and yet it is also an allegory which can be read on several levels: in terms of Germany under the Nazis, America in Vietnam, and more generally on the bestiality that lingers beneath the facade of civilized conventions. In one of Herzog's romantic tricks within his otherwise realistic vision, he shows a young Spanish noblewoman wearing an ever-pristine velvet dress amid mud and squalor; further, only she of all the rest is not shown dying through violence and is allowed to disappear almost mystically into the dense vegetation of the forest: clearly, she represents that transcendent quality in human nature that incorruptibly endures. This figure is dropped like a hint to remind us to look beyond mere surface.

One finds, however, in Fitzcarraldo, Herzog's supreme apotheosis of the spiritual dimensions of the rain forest. As much in the production as in the substance of the film, the Western Imperialist will to reshape the wilderness is again and again met with reversals that render that will meaningless. The protagonist's titanic effort to get a riverboat over a hill from one river to another is achieved only to be thwarted by the natives who cut the ropes, sending it careening downstream through the rapids in a sacrifice to their river deity. The boat ends up uselessly back where it began: a massive symbol of human futility. Only the old gramophone shown playing records of Caruso throughout the jungle voyage offers—like the Spanish noblewoman in Aguirre—Herzog's vision of beauty that rarely escapes being rendered meaningless by an otherwise absurd universe.

Herzog's Australian film Where Green Ants Dream does penance for any taint of Western Imperialism that Fitzcarraldo might have given him. The director comes down hard against the modern way of life. This film is saved from tendentiousness by movements of human comedy through which a very sympathetic hero learns from the Native Australians, and by Herzog's much-loved 360-degree pans over the flatness of the Outback. This technique is also used by Herzog to convey the sense of flat immensity of sub-Saharan Africa in Herdsmen of the Sun, a lyrical celebration of the Wodaabe tribesmen, who bend Western gender expectations by having the men and women reverse roles in courtship. Here, too, Herzog evidences his German heritage by following in the African footsteps of his greatest—if most problematic—filmmaking compatriot: Leni Riefenstahl, whose last work was a documentary of a sub-Saharan tribe to the east of the Wodaabe.

—Rodney Farnsworth

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Herzog, Werner

Werner Herzog

In the motion picture world, West German filmmaker Werner Herzog (born 1942) is a clear anomaly. At the age of 19, and with no formal training, Herzog made his first film, which he financed through nightshift work as a welder. Over the next 40–something years, Herzog produced nearly 50 films and was still going strong in his 60s. Most of Herzog's films feature society's castoffs—dwarfs and aborigines, the deaf, blind, and mentally impaired, the lonely and desperate. He loves to document the lives of ordinary people who possess extraordinary madness in pursuit of their dreams. Raw and intimate, Herzog's films are intended to awaken viewers' perceptions to new possibilities.

Besides filming extraordinary people, Herzog films in extraordinary places. He avoids filming in studios because he believes it interferes with spontaneity. Instead, Herzog takes his viewers, literally, to the far corners of the earth. He has shot films in the South American jungle, the Alaskan forests, and the African deserts. He once journeyed to the evacuated island of Guadeloupe to film a volcano, though it did not erupt as planned. "He's a guy who not only eschews the norms of the industry but will go make a movie with no crew and no set and no director's chair and no trailers and no anything," screenwriter Zak Penn told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think that that adventurous spirit appeals to people."

Grew up in Bomb – Raided Germany

Herzog was born September 5, 1942, in Munich, Germany. Shortly after his birth, his parents separated. Growing up, Herzog was known as Werner Stipetić which was his mother, Elizabeth's, maiden name. He later adopted the last name Herzog, which means "duke" in German, because he felt it had dramatic flair. When Herzog was born, World War II was in full force. Within days of his birth, a bomb destroyed the neighbor's house. Elizabeth Stipetić figured her children would be safer out of the city, so she took Herzog and his older brother, Tilbert, to Sachrang, a remote mountain village on the German–Austrian border. Sachrang proved to be a safe haven from the war zone, but the isolation meant Werner grew up in a place very different from his peers. "My childhood was totally separate from the outside world," Herzog told Paul Cronin, editor of Herzog on Herzog. "As a child I knew nothing of cinema, and even telephones did not exist for me. A car was an absolute sensation . . . I did not know what a banana was until I was twelve and I did not make my first telephone call until I was seventeen." The house had no running water. In lieu of a mattress, his mother stuffed dried ferns into a linen bag for a makeshift bed.

Herzog later said that growing up in a world without conveniences bolstered his imagination and ingenuity. He noted to Cronin that while growing up in the ruins of a city was hard on adults, it was satisfying for a child. "Kids in the cities took over whole bombed–out blocks and would declare the remnants of buildings their own to play in where great adventures were acted out. . . . Everyone I know who spent their early childhood in the ruins of post–war Germany raves about that time. It was anarchy in the best sense of the word. There were no ruling fathers around and no rules to follow. We had to invent everything from scratch." By 1954, the family was back in Munich and living together in a boarding–house room. Herzog's family now numbered four—his half–brother, Lucki, had been born. A self–described loner, Herzog spent much of his childhood reading.

Early on, Elizabeth Stipetić realized her son experienced the world differently than others. Speaking to Cronin, she expressed her thoughts this way: "When he was in school, Werner never learned anything. He never read the books he was supposed to read, he never studied, he never knew what he was supposed to know, it seemed. But in reality, Werner always knew everything. His senses were remarkable. If he heard the slightest sound, ten years later he would remember it precisely . . . and maybe use it some way. But he is absolutely unable to explain anything. He knows, he sees, he understands, but he cannot explain. That is not his nature. Everything goes into him. If it comes out, it comes out transformed."

Discovered the Silver Screen

Herzog was 11 when he saw his first films at school. These films featured Eskimos and pygmies and Herzog was unimpressed. He also saw other B–grade American films, like Tarzan, but remained indifferent to the medium. Then one day, while watching a Fu Manchu movie, Herzog had a revelation. The film contained a scene where a stuntman fell 60 feet, doing a somersault and peculiar kick on his way down. The sequence, recognizable by the funny kick, appeared in the film a second time. At first, Herzog did not understand how that was possible. "Before this moment I thought it was some kind of reality I had been watching on screen, that the film was something like a documentary," Herzog explained in the book Herzog on Herzog. "All of a sudden I could see how the film was being narrated and edited, how tension and suspense were created, and from that day on cinema was something different for me."

During his teens, Herzog disappeared from home periodically. He liked to walk and hitchhike around Germany. At 16, he ran away to the English port city of Manchester to work on the docks. By 17, he was raising money to make films, attending school during the day and working at a steel mill at night. Previously, he had had a script accepted by a producer who canceled the project when he found out Herzog was just a teen. After that, Herzog knew he would have to finance his films himself. At 19, and with no training, Herzog produced his first film, Herakles, (Hercules) released in 1962. The short film mostly involved editing. Herzog took images of a tragic Le Mans raceway accident and commingled it with footage of body builders. Later in life, he called the film stupid, but nonetheless, said it provided a good apprenticeship for him.

Traveled to United States and Mexico

At 22, Herzog accepted a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. He chose a school in Pittsburgh. The city appealed to him because of its working–class people. He did not like it, however, and left after three days. He did not have enough money to return home. In time, Herzog landed a job making films for NASA. Just as he was starting, however, a security check revealed Herzog had violated his student visa by dropping out of school. Realizing he was about to be shipped out of the country, Herzog took his rusty Volkswagen to New York City and lived in it over the course of a brutal winter, hanging out with the homeless. Next, Herzog traveled to Mexico and earned a living smuggling items across the border, mostly delivering televisions to the Mexican natives.

Herzog contends that his wanderings were time well spent and helped formulate a base of human experience from which to draw on in his moviemaking. In Herzog on Herzog, he gave this advice to aspiring filmmakers: "Go out to where the real world is, go work as a bouncer in a sex–club, a warden in a lunatic asylum or in a slaughterhouse. Walk on foot, learn languages, learn a craft or trade that has nothing to do with cinema. Filmmaking must have experience of life at its foundation. I know that so much of what is in my films is not just invention, it is very much life itself, my own life. You can tell when you read [Joseph] Conrad or [Ernest] Hemingway how much real life is in those books." Herzog thinks of filmmaking the same way.

Churned out Films

In 1966, Herzog established Werner Herzog Filmproduktion and began filming again. His 1967 short film, Letzte Worte (Last Words), won the major prize at Germany's Oberhausen Film Festival. In 1968, he produced his first feature–length film, Lebenszeichen (Signs of Life), a treatise on self–expression. Signs of Life told the story of a German soldier sent to an isolated Mediterranean island to wait out the end of the war. The man ends up going insane. The film won the 1968 Bundesfilmpreis (German National Film Award) for best feature.

Herzog's second feature film, 1970's Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen (Even Dwarfs Started Small), was banned in Germany because critics said it promoted fascism, a system of government characterized by a central, one–party dictatorship. Though perhaps symbolic of world politics, the film itself was about dwarfs who inhabited an asylum and the rebellion and mayhem that ensued.

Herzog's first international breakthrough came in 1972 with Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre, the Wrath of God). The movie marked his first collaboration with German actor Klaus Kinski. The two had met years before in Munich when they lived in the same boardinghouse, though Herzog was just a child. Filmed on location in the Peruvian jungle, Aguirre explores the human penchant for power and madness as it follows the story of Spanish conquistadors searching for El Dorado, the legendary Incan city of gold. The film also touches on the themes of disease and brutality.

Scored at Cannes

Herzog won further acclaim with his film Jeder für Sich und Gott Gegen Alle (Every Man for Himself and God Against All/The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser). Though the film is not a documentary, it aims to tell the true story of Kaspar Hauser, a boy found standing in the town square at Nuremberg, Germany, in 1828. The boy could not walk or even talk because he had been left alone in a dark cellar since birth. Herzog took a chance and cast a former mental patient known as Bruno S. in the title role. The results were amazing. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival. Herzog scored again at Cannes in 1982 with Fitzcarraldo, which won the award for best director. The film chronicled the journey of a real–life Irish expatriate, who toiled to bring opera to the depths of the jungle in the 1890s. In the end, the man is defeated by nature. In re–creating the tale, Herzog's crew had to drag a 320–ton steamboat over a mountain in the Amazon jungle.

Herzog has also received awards for his documentaries. In 1998, he won the International Documentary Association Award for Distinguished Documentary Achievement for Little Dieter Needs to Fly. The film told the story of Vietnam Prisoner of War survivor Dieter Dengler. Herzog explored other aspects of war in Lekionen in Finsternis (Lessons of Darkness), released in 1992. The documentary, which aired on the Discovery Channel, discussed the environmental impact of the 1991 gulf war in Kuwait.

Many of Herzog's films never made any money, but when they did, he took the money and invested it into another film. Many times, Herzog knew he did not have money for a film, but he started shooting anyway, sleeping in his car when he could not afford a hotel. "Financing of films only comes when the fire ignites other fires," he said in Herzog on Herzog. Early on, while watching other aspiring filmmakers fail, he realized that it was not money, but organization and commitment, that finished films.

Continued Filmmaking into His 60s

In 2004, Herzog was still going strong and released The White Diamond, a film that followed Graham Dorrington through the Guyana rainforest canopy in a zeppelin–type aircraft he had invented to reach the remote areas. A previous craft had crashed, killing a friend. In the spring of 2005, Herzog had another film set for release. Titled Wake for Galileo, the movie features scientists and their creations intermingled with footage from space taken during the launch of the Galileo probe.

Along the way, Herzog also found time for love, marrying actress Martje Grohmann. He also has a son, Rudolph Amos Ahmed Herzog. Despite his prolific oeuvre and awards, Herzog has continued to be a marginal character in the history of filmmaking. He was never appreciated in his own country and was somewhat ignored in others. Writing in Film Comment, Michael Atkinson said Herzog deserves another look because "few filmmakers have such a powerful and clearly impassioned point of view, spilling off every frame and possessed of every found location, natural wonder, accident and butterfly. . . . The crucial idea about Herzog's films is that they shouldn't be defined as narratives but as manifestations of his gaze, his zealous imperative to see and experience, which has a quality and weight unique in movies. It's not style; it's essence."


The Films of Werner Herzog: Between Mirage and History, edited by Timothy Corrigan, Methuen Inc., 1986.

Herzog on Herzog, edited by Paul Cronin, Faber and Faber Ltd., 2002.


Film Comment, January/February 2000.

New York Times, February 17, 1985.

San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2004.


"Biography," Werner Herzog Official Website,–subnavigation.htm (January 5, 2005).

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Herzog, Werner

Werner Herzog, 1942–, German director, screenwriter, and producer; originally named Werner Stipetic. One of the leading filmmakers in contemporary German cinema, the prolific Herzog is known for his vivid and poetic films. He made short films during the 1960s, made his first feature, Signs of Life, in 1968, and came to wide public attention with Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), a spectacular portrayal of the tropical rain forest and the character of a mad conquistador. Breathtaking landscape, acutely observed detail, mysterious heroes, and tales of danger and escape fill his work, which enthusiasts have called visionary and some critics have branded self-indulgent. His other feature films include The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974), Heart of Glass (1976), Stroszek (1977), Nosferatu (1978), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982; the subject of Les Blank's revealing 1982 documentary Burden of Dreams), Hard to Be a God (1989), the Hollywood-made Invincible (2002), and Queen of the Desert (2015) about British traveler and official Gertrude Bell.

Herzog has also made a group of varied and original documentaries. They include Lessons of Darkness (1992), which pictures a devastated Kuwait in the wake of the First Persian Gulf War; My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski (1999), a portrait of the brilliant but unpredictable actor who starred in five Herzog films; Wheel of Time (2003), exploring Tibetan Buddhism; Grizzly Man (2005), the story of a man devoted to wild bears who was ultimately killed by one; Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011), a 3D film on the cave art of Chauvet, France; Into the Abyss (2011), the account of a Texas double murder and the murderer; and Happy People (2013), chronicling the life of trappers in Siberia's subarctic forest. The plot of his documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)—a Vietnam War pilot is shot down, imprisoned, and escapes—was recounted in his Hollywood feature Rescue Dawn (2007). Herzog has also directed television features and operas.

See his Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo (2004, tr. 2009); Herzog on Herzog (2002), ed. by P. Cronin; study by T. Corrigan, ed. (1986); B. Presser, ed., Werner Herzog (2003).

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