by Niall McArdle
I’ve admired the films of Werner Herzog for many years, both his fiction and non-fiction narratives. Encounters at the End of the World, his documentary on the scientists who live and work in Antarctica, should be required viewing for everyone, as should Cave of Forgotten Dreams, an astonishing, beautiful investigation of the 32,000 year-old Chauvet cave paintings.
His films, much like the characters in them, are beautiful, maddening, crazy, bizarre and unique. They are often characterised as ‘Art films’, something he dismisses.
I truly feel that in the world of the painter or novelist or film director there are no artists. This is a concept that belongs to earlier centuries, where there was such a thing as virtue and pistol duels at dawn with men in love, and damsels fainting on couches.
Regarding the much overused concept of ‘genius’, Herzog says this:
I detest the word ‘genius’. It too is a word that belongs to an earlier time and not to our own era. It is a sick concept nowadays, and this is why with utmost caution did I once call Kinski a ‘genius’. My use of the word comes close to my feelings about the man, but the expression itself and the concept behind it is something that heralds from the late eighteenth century and just does not fit comfortably today.
The mention of Kinski is interesting. Herzog had, to say the least, a complicated relationship with his friend, actor Klaus Kinski.