Film Retro: Werner Herzog

Nosferatu – Phantom der Nacht © Werner Herzog Filmproduktion

18.-28.07.2019

Hypnos Theatre Malmö

Norra Grängesbergsgatan 15
214 50 Malmö

Das Goethe-Institut Schweden präsentiert in Kooperation mit dem Hypnos Theatre Malmö vom 18.-28. Juli 2019 eine Reihe ausgewählter Filme des großen deutschen Regisseurs, Produzenten und Schauspielers Werner Herzog.

Er zählt zu den bedeutendsten Vertretern des „Neuen Deutschen Films“ und des internationalen Autorenfilms. Für sein Werk wurde Herzog international mehrfach ausgezeichnet, unter anderem mit dem Europäischen und Deutschen Filmpreis und dem Adolf-Grimme Preis. Zudem wurde ihm das Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse der Bundesrepublik Deutschland verliehen.
 
Wo: Hypnos Theatre Malmö
Wann: 18. bis 28. Juli 2019

Gezeigt werden folgende Filme:

STORY TO MYTH:

FATA MORGANA
24/7 WEDNESDAY 15:00
27/7 SATURDAY 19:00
(1971, 76 min, German with English subtitles)

A near-silent documentary journey through (and over) the Sahara scored to Leonard Cohen songs and narrated by both director Werner Herzog and German film historian Lotte Eisner (reading from the Mayan “Popul Voh” creation myth), one of Herzog’s earliest – and most evocative – cinematic essays on the uneasy relationships between man and Earth, unaffected reality and orchestrated drama. Initially conceived of as a science-fiction project, the film captures the vast African wasteland in all its overwhelming, ominous glory, the big sky portentously hovering over the rolling sand dunes and the husks of modern machinery that litter the ground like relics from an obsolete civilization. When his gaze turns to the desert’s residents, Herzog seems to be consciously testing the limits of non-fiction filmmaking’s policy of non-intrusion, with these scenes exuding a deliberately staged quality that somewhat undermines the air of authentic, otherworldly mystery begat by his seductively roaming cinematography (some of which was reportedly shot by attaching a camera to the roof of a VW van driven by Herzog himself). Still, there’s a beguiling poeticism to Fata Morgana that, even in its slightly redundant latter third, is awe-inspiring, whether it be the majestic shots of shimmering mirages – images that beautifully encapsulate the director’s own bordering-on-surreal documentary aesthetic – or the comments of a man whose admiration for a rare reptile’s ability to survive the harsh desert embodies Herzog’s own career-long fascination with the contentious but vital relationship shared between the natural world and its inhabitants. (Review by Lessons of Darkness)


LAST WORDS
24/7 WEDNESDAY 16:25
27/7 SATURDAY 20:30
(1967, 13 min, Greek and German with English subtitles)
The story of a solitary man who refuses to leave a Greek island (at one time a leper colony) is told by a strange variety of characters who don’t have much to say except to repeat their tellings over and over again. But the person who has the final word on the matter, the lonely character himself, may not explain anything about his personal reasons for not abandoning the place.

LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY
24/7 WEDNESDAY 16:40
27/7 SATURDAY 21:00
(1997, 80 min, English & German with English subtitles)
The thing about story-telling is that it creates pictures in our heads. I can “see” what happened to Dieter Dengler as clearly as if it has all been dramatized, and his poetry adds to the images. “As I followed the river, there was this beautiful bear following me,” he remembers. “This bear meant death to me. It’s really ironic–the only friend I had at the end was death.” At another point, standing in front of a giant tank of jellyfish, he says, “This is basically what Death looks like to me,” and Herzog’s camera moves in on the dreamy floating shapes as we hear the sad theme from “Tristan and Isolde.” Now here is an interesting aspect. Dieter Dengler is a real man who really underwent all of those experiences (and won the Medal of Honor, the D.F.C and the Navy Cross because of them). His story is true. But not all of his words are his own. Herzog freely reveals in conversation that he suggested certain images to Dengler. The image of the jellyfish, for example–“that was my idea,” Herzog told me. Likewise the opening and shutting of the doors, although not the image of the bear. Herzog sees his mission as a filmmaker not to turn himself into a recording machine, but to be a collaborator. He does not simply stand and watch, but arranges and adjusts and subtly enhances, so that the film takes the materials of Dengler’s adventure and fashions it into a new thing. (Roger Ebert)

PLACE IN CRISES

LESSONS IN DARKNESS
25/7 THURSDAY 13:30
28/7 SUNDAY 14:30
(1992, 55 min, German, English and Arabic with English subtitles)
Probably the best example of Herzog’s distinctive approach to the thin line between documentary and fiction. Nowhere in his filmography has his blurring of this line been more complete than in this terse, mysterious, and evocative film, made in Kuwait and Iraq shortly after the first Gulf War, in the immediate wake of the Iraqi army’s destructive retreat from occupied Kuwait. But despite this setting, the film is almost stridently apolitical — aside from a pair of scenes in which Arab women describe the tortures of Saddam Hussein’s regime — and ahistorical in its treatment of the war, the region it occurred in, and the world situation and events that caused it. Aside from Herzog’s narration and the two Arab women, the film’s other people are silent, mostly men working on extinguishing the oil fires that Iraqi soldiers lit in the aftermath of the war, and they are glimpsed usually from a distance, covered in thick layers of protective clothing and framed in silhouette against the towering blazes. This abstraction from the human elements of the story allows Herzog to transform this documentary into a kind of science-fiction narrative about an alien world, and right from the start his narration enforces this idea. Herzog’s films have often stressed the absurdity and hostility of nature, and the ultimate extreme for him is the idea that our planet is alien to its own inhabitants. To this end, he has captured some of the most stunning and strangely beautiful images imaginable: lakes of oil, towering blazes that fill the sky with black smoke, a desert strewn with bones and mysterious metal wreckage, strange machines completing inscrutable tasks in the midst of this hellish landscape. (excerpt from Only the Cinema)

THE WILD BLUE YONDER
25/7 THURSDAY 14:45
28/7 SUNDAY 15:40
(2005, 81 min, English)
An opening title card reads “a science fiction fantasy,” as Herzog rekindles his long-running obsessions in the form of an wholly invented story of a dying alien planet and the journey taken there by a group of human astronauts. One of its former residents – conveniently in human form (a wonderful Brad Dourif, familiar to most as Grima Wormtongue from The Two Towers) – narrates the tale and reminisces his far away planet, he and many other former inhabitants having evacuated long ago in the midst of a destructive ice age. Herzog pieces together scripted interviews about theorized space travel, NASA footage of the 1989 STS-34 Space Shuttle mission (recasting the astronauts as travelers en route to the titular galactic body), and underwater footage of artic marine life (presented as the extra-terrestrial planet), all held together by a wholly alien score featuring Dutch cellist Ernst Reijsiger and Senegalese singer Mola Sylla. The synchronization of these marvelous sights and sounds creates an overwhelming sense of genuine long-ago, far-away ness (if Stanley Kubrick and David Bowie ever had a love child, this would have been it), while the often sublimely ridiculous use of natural footage (at one point the “inhabitants” of The Wild Blue Yonder are even given voices and their own distinct tongue) prove a dazzling ode to the mesmerizing power of nature. Our Alien narrator, meanwhile – often before locations of abandoned buildings or decrepit scrap heaps – yearns for the preservation of earth’s natural beauty and the staying of mankind’s viral natural imperialism, the human population committing many of the same sins his own race once practiced in vain.

LA SOUFRIERE
25/7 THURSDAY 16:30
28/7 SUNDAY 17:15
(1976, 31 min, German with English subtitles)
 More so than any other filmmaker, the act of filmmaking itself becomes an essential aspect to understanding the fictional world Herzog creates. The same idea can be usefully applied to his documentaries – but La Soufriere is surely the one in which the spectre of death and destruction looms most palpably in every frame. In late 1976 Herzog along with his two cameramen Jorg Schmidt-Retwein and Edward Lachman travelled to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, an island that had been evacuated due to the imminent explosion of the volcano La Soufriere. However a handful of peasants had remained on the island, despite claims by volcanologists that to do so would mean certain death. Intrigued by this attitude to impending death Herzog was determined to interview these men to get a better understanding of their cavalier approach to life. Their position as men on the fringes of society is made clear, and the decision to remain behind is motivated as much by economics as it is a stubborn desire to make a statement. This decision though has enabled each of the men Herzog interviews to come to terms with, and accept, the inevitability of death. For all of them death is something they no longer fear, and each speak in a surprisingly laid back and relaxed manner as if to suggest that La Soufriere has relieved them of a large burden. They are all very impressive in front of the camera – showing an assuredness and punctuating their statements with a philosophical and poetical turn of phrase which suggests that their time alone on the island has enabled them to free their minds.The most impressive aspect of this film is the discovery on arrival of a totally desolate and empty landscape. The streets are deserted of all human life and starving animals mingle in a reclaimed kingdom they can scarcely survive in. In their rush to abandon this island death trap eerie aspects of a once bustling community show the futility of technology in the face of a natural disaster.

LANGUAGE AS A PRODUCT

HOW MUCH WOOD WOULD A WOODCHUCK CHUCK 
25/7 THURSDAY 19:30
27/7 SATURDAY 16:00
(1976, 45 min, German, English with English subtitles)
Herzog’s brief but charming 1976 documentary on auctioneers—you know, the ones that talk really fast. The German title of the film translated to Observations of a New Language, as Herzog had a great deal of respect for the auctioneers and their “beautiful” but “frightening” language, referring to auctioneering as “the last poetry possible, the poetry of capitalism.” I assure you, there are parts where you might laugh, and that is absolutely okay. (review excerpted from “How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck: Herzog’s Doc on Auctioneers & the Poetry of Capitalism”  by Amber Frost at Dangerous Minds)

LAND OF DARKNESS AND SILENCE
25/7 THURSDAY 20:45
28/7 SUNDAY 15:40
(1971, 85 min, German with English subtitles)
His straightforward, austere direction corresponding with his subjects’ difficult interaction with the world, Werner Herzog masterfully conveys the logistical, emotional, and psychological burden suffered by the hearing and sight-impaired in Land of Silence and Darkness. Fini Straubinger, a woman who lost both sight and hearing during a severe staircase fall at the age of nine, is the primary focus of Herzog’s documentary, which begins by joining the 56-year-old on her first plane flight before following her around the Bavarian countryside to meet and help those with similar disabilities. Remarkably competent and well-spoken, Straubinger communicates via a tactile, hand-touching technique that remains elusive for many of the impaired individuals she meets, from two young boys born blind and deaf to a 22-year-old man so neglected as a child that he never learned to walk and now spends his days spitting and slamming rubber balls against his mouth. Sensorially trapped inside themselves and, thus, cut-off from their surroundings and fellow man, these tragic figures are treated with modest sympathy by Herzog, whose directorial reserve bestows the film with an attitude of fascinated detachment. And yet Land of Silence and Darkness ultimately benefits from the filmmaker’s refusal to overtly express his sympathies (or lack thereof), as it instead allows its organic mise-en-scène – including the heartbreaking image of a braying calf running back to its mother, an echo of many deaf-blinds’ yearning for familial contact – to speak volumes about the intrinsic human desire for empathetic communion. (review from “Lessons of Darkness“)

REIGN OF HORROR

ECHOS FROM A SOMBRE EMPIRE
26/7 FRIDAY 19:30
28/7 SUNDAY 18:00
(1990, 87 min, French, German, English with English subtitles)
follows journalist Michael Goldsmith, who was imprisoned and tortured by mad dictator Jean Bedel Bokassa of Central Africa, as he tries to make sense of his experiences from the perspective of more than a decade. Goldsmith interviews Bokassa’s wives (he is estimated to have had as many as 54), his children, his political enemies and others who knew him but he is compelled, like the Ancient Mariner, to tell them his story almost as if he cannot believe it himself. Interspersed with Goldsmith’s interviews is archival footage of Bokassa’s reign. Eerily, these scenes are silent save for the beautiful, contemplative music Herzog uses in the background. The flickering footage, the gaudy pomp of Bokassa’s coronation and state occasions are like the echoes from the past that so haunt Goldsmith. Bokassa, who ruled from 1966 to 1979 inexplicably returned to Central Africa from exile after he was condemned to death for, among other crimes, cannibalism. Though it is believed that Bokassa is in prison, his fate is similar to that of Goldsmith who, Herzog tells us in the film’s opening, has disappeared somewhere in Africa. There is so much that is unexplained. (excerpt from review by Kathleen Maher)

NOSFERATU
26/7 FRIDAY 21:30
28/7 SUNDAY 20:00
(1978, 103 min, German, English, Romany with English subtitles)
There is a quality to the color photography in Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu the Vampyre” that seeps into your bones. It would be inadequate to call it “saturated.” It is rich, heavy, deep. The earth looks cold and dirty. There isn’t a lot of green, and it looks wet. Mountains look craggy, gray, sharp-edged. Interiors are filmed in bold reds and browns and whites — whites, especially, for the faces, and above all for Count Dracula’s. It is a film of remarkable beauty, but makes no effort to attract or visually coddle us. The spectacular journey by foot and coach to Dracula’s remote Transylvanian castle is deliberately not made to seem scenic.
Herzog is the most original of filmmakers, not much given to remakes. Why was he drawn to remake one of the most famous and least dated of German silent films? I think it was partly because of love — for Murnau, and for the film, which suits the macabre strain in some of his own work. It was partly in homage. And I suspect it was above all because he had the resource of Klaus Kinski. Kinski of all actors could most easily create the driven and the mad.. To say of someone that they were born to play a vampire is a strange compliment, but if you will compare the two versions of Nosferatu you might agree with me that only Kinski could have equaled or rivaled Max Schreck‘s performance. “Nosferatu the Vampyre” cannot be confined to the category of “horror film.” It is about dread itself, and how easily the unwary can fall into evil. Bruno Ganz makes an ideal Harker because he sidesteps any temptation to play a hero, and plays a devoted husband who naively dismisses alarming warnings. He is loving, then resolute, then uncertain, then fearful, then desperate, and finally mad — lost.
One striking quality of the film is its beauty. Herzog’s pictorial eye is not often enough credited. His films always upstage it with their themes. We are focused on what happens, and there are few “beauty shots.” Look here at his control of the color palate, his off-center compositions, of the dramatic counterpoint of light and dark. Here is a film that does honor to the seriousness of vampires. No, I don’t believe in them. But if they were real, here is how they must look. (excerpt from review by Roger Ebert)

SPORT AND FANATISM

GREAT ECSTASY OF WOODCARVER STEINER
24/7 WEDNESDAY 21:00
(1973, 47 min, German, English, Slovenian with English subtitles)
 This magnificent documentary is a both a study of sporting endeavour and a journey into the psychology of a man willing to risk his very existence to attain his life long dream of flight. The Swiss ski jumper/flier Walter Steiner is probably Werner Herzog’s perfect protagonist. Steiner is an exceptional and introverted figure, a man on the edge of the world, who lives a life of contrasting and conflicting emotions. On the one hand Steiner lives a simple rural life in which he spends his days quietly carving objects out of wood. He appears unassuming and shy, somewhat awkward and self conscious in front of the camera, although when left to his thoughts is surprisingly eloquent and poetic. Herzog deftly emphasises the mundane aspects of Steiner’s life which allows for a far greater impact when we see Steiner launching himself at ridiculous speeds into the alpine skies and clearing 170 meters. The film opens with this image – a beautiful but eerie shot of Steiner in slow motion, his mouth agape, the mountainous backdrop still and implacable and the ethereal music of Popol Vuh giving the shot a resonance and grandeur that slips it into the realm of the ecstatic. (Review by Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway])

HERAKLES
24/7 WEDNESDAY 21:50
(1962, 10 min, German with English subtitles)
With his filmic debut, shot on 35 mm celluloid, Herzog explores the art of editing, and although Herakles is little more than an editorial exercise, it does contain a few images that will be of interest to Herzog enthusiasts. A coup for the film was the participation of Reinhardt Lichtenberg who in 1962 was crowned Mr. Germany, and it is Lichtenberg who is the locus of attention in the sequences that explore the training programme of the modern bodybuilder. Herzog’s relatively static camera not only shows the rippling torso’s of these self styled supermen as they pump iron, but also shows the narcissism that forms a logical flipside to their grunting endeavours. The meat heads pose in front of mirrors, and on stages, and clearly relish the presence of the camera, but the overriding sensation is of a self-contained and self-absorbed world in which reality is measured by size and definition. Herzog highlights this selfishness with a series of impressive shots culled from film libraries; a huge rubbish dump, uniformed women marching in unison, surprisingly graphic footage of an accident at a motor race in which members of the audience were killed, traffic jams, and fighter planes dropping their deadly payload to explosive effect. (Review by Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway])  While the juxtapositioning of these differing images remains unclear, considering Herzog’s later achievements, the intention is worth exploring.




 

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