Thursday 5 September 2013

Werner Werner Wenders

I mentioned in passing a while ago Aguirre Wrath of God / Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes.  It was by far the most troubling and gorgeous-looking films we showed in the TCD Film Society the year I blagged myself onto the committee.  The Beloved was reading French out in the The Other Place and we often went out to see offerings by the French Film Society.  In TCD, because of the predilections of our rather autocratic Chair, we signed up for rather more German cinema than I would have wanted.  Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, or Wim Wenders seemed to feature almost every week: The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter was another film we saw that year.  But I thought then and nowthat the French School, Chabrol and Truffaut more than Godard, were cooler and didn't seem to try so hard.  At heart I am happier when my films are 'fluffy' rather than challenging but it's hard to make this sort of position credible to film buffs.  15 years later Wenders directed Wings of Desire Der Himmel über Berlin which is definitely worth digging out again, especially if you're a fan of Peter "Columbo" Falk.

Then I left College and as I got stuck into work at Graduate School and work-work so subtitled cinema slipped out of my life.  Then about ten years ago The Boy started to send us odd films on DVD and I was gob-smacked to realise that Werner Herzog was still around and now producing documentaries. (*Fassbinder had long ago chemicalled himself to death after shagging a lot of people and offending everybody at some point.)  If you haven't seen Herzog's latest short sharp shocker about killing while phoning, you aren't obeying orders.  And if you don't like fluffy, you may check out Herzog's quietly compelling Encounters at the End of the World: emphatically not a TV documenary about 'fluffy penguins' in Antarctica but rather a fly on the wall look at the misfit and eccentric people who choose to live in the Big White - es ist wunderbar, meine leser.

I don't know if all his work has a theme but three of the most well-known Herzog documentaries: Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Grizzly Man and Wings of Hope are about people struggling alone in the wilderness.  Wings of Hope has a particular and peculiar resonance for Herzog because, while he was scouting locations for Aguirre, he was booked to fly on the same plane that blew up in mid-air and delivered biologist Juliane Koepcke alive into the middle of Amazonia.  She walked herself out of there covered in leeches and suppurating sores, but alive.  Herzog was alive too because his PA scrubbed his booking.  But it must be hard to shake that sort of might-have-been loose from your dreams.  ANNyway.  Heute, es ist der Geburtstag von Werner, Prost!

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