Does Werner Herzog regard his films as art? No.

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.




Courtesy of Bibliokept is this quote from Herzog on Herzog, where he disagrees with those who believe his films to be Art, or even that it is possible to be a true artist.

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.


Herzog and his best friend, actor Klaus Kinski. source: jackfilmreviews
Herzog and his best friend, actor Klaus Kinski. source: jackfilmreviews


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.




5 thoughts on “Does Werner Herzog regard his films as art? No.

  1. Good article, Niall. It’s interesting that this great talent thinks so uncharacteristically about his own work. I’ve often wondered if great artists are themselves the best judges of their own talents. For example: I heard that Leonard Bernstein once considered “America” to be his best song, if I remember correctly. Out of all the great songs he crafted, that one? 😀

    I like Herzog a lot, too; Aguirre is one of my favorite films, and he’s a terrific, offbeat documentarian, too. Very fine post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s