Conversation with Werner Herzog & Jonathan Demme - June 5, 2008
Here I write my first contribution to The Film Panel Notetaker, that is from the point of view of a very very independent filmmaker. So it might not be very traditional notetaking, rather this spot will be a collage of impressions, a recollection of images (mostly moving) and candid writing.
On Werner Herzog in conversation with Jonathan Demme celebrating the launch of Moving Image Source
The conversation started with the reading of Roger Ebert's "secret" letter to Werner Herzog by Jonathan Demme. The "secret letter" was published by Ebert in his website, something Herzog "would have never" done because "those things should stay amongst two men." Herzog dedicated his latest film Encounters at the End of the World to Ebert. " I salute him, a soldier of cinema," he said.
Then Demme asked his long awaited question to Herzog. " I always wanted to ask you about the long water shot in Aguirre." (See Minute 5:04 of this clip) If you do the math Aguirre came out in 1972, that was a very particular flashback of a question. In any case what started out as a WTF is that question? ( internal narrator) actually became a very interesting answer .
The highlights deal with the topics of having subtle ideas in images and dialogue, and doing what your gut feeling tells you to do, period. Ignore the Naysayers like Herzog, "no I do it as it is and that is how it is." It is that perseverance to have your own voice what makes authentic, and inspiring work. Take it from the man, it is good advice.
Trailer of Encounters at the end of the World
The song used in the trailer is Basso Profundo Ukrainian Russian Orthodox church chant style. This song names the glories of saint after saint. Herzog had this song selected before shooting started. And he wanted to name the glory of Antarctic, and the glory of people in this film. As for his music and images selection to the dismay of the editors, he always knows where to place songs in his films, leaving them with little play time to try different spots or different songs.
Growing up in the Bavarian Alps he "only knew about the world through fairy tales," [and by the way he "doesn't like the Germans" and the German's don't like him nor Bavaria. This always amazes me, but I haven't met the first German who loves Herzog as we outsiders do.]
This knowing of the world through fairy tales makes total sense. If one knows more than seven of his films, one knows he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest story/fairy tellers alive. He has made it clear not only through his films, but in several interviews, that he stages a lot of the action in his documentaries, is no secret really, that the thin line between reality and the invented reality have a great play in his films.
I have the feeling this Volcano Etiquette was a scripted reality. Herzog insisted on how he staged all the positions of all people throughout the film, including interviews. This is of course fantastic, this is a master revealing his tricks, and jokes. But how does he make common ground between reality and scripted reality (fiction) : Not only do particular men "fall like gold on his lap," but "he knows the heart of men, and understands situations...if you don't you are not a filmmaker."
It is the opportunity to create his own reality, which I suspect has Herzog very much involved in filmmaking over the decades.
To have Werner Herzog endorsing the Moving Image Source (updated every Thursday) "a site celebrating film history," is like having the Pope of living cinema's blessings.
"Although it is a wonderful instrument, the web is so shallow....is just totally wild, all of a sudden you can go into deep bottoms of the unknown in cinema."
See also LA SOUFRIÈRE by Werner Herzog.
Werner Herzog on Abel Ferrara: ‘Who Is He?’