Sunshine Recorder

Link: Werner Herzog: 50 Years of Potent, Inspiring, Disturbing Films

Herzog’s films portray humans as frail creatures caught in the gap between an indifferent nature and a punishing God. Ahead of the UK release of As Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, which Herzog executive produced, Michael Newton celebrates a unique world view.

For a man whose “social network” is his kitchen table, Werner Herzog's image is very present on the internet. You can see him (deceptively edited) discoursing in doom-laden tones concerning the “enormity of the stupidity” of hipsters or Republicans. (Originally he was discussing chickens.) He's there (or rather someone impersonating him is) intoning about the dark intensities of “Where's Waldo”. (The clip has had more than a million hits on YouTube.) And, most notably, he can be seen in Les Blank's short film (this time for real) eating his shoe to celebrate the successful completion of Errol Morris's Gates of Heaven (1978). While the shoe boils, Herzog remarks that the movie industry makes clowns of its artists, as happened to Orson Welles, and even, he claims, François Truffaut. And it can seem that the media has indeed turned Herzog into a clown an archetypal Deadly Serious German, a mockable, foolish “Ahrtist”.

It’s as though the apparent gloom of his world view prompts us to giggle at him. Herzog can be found online being shot by a sniper with an air-rifle during an interview with Mark Kermode. Somehow it is hard to imagine such a thing happening to any other famous director, and even harder to imagine that they would respond with the unconcerned, pessimistic sang-froid of Herzog. (He remarks: “It doesn’t surprise me to be shot at.”) Just before that air-rifle sniper shoots him, Herzog remarks: “InGermany … Nobody cares about my films.” Elsewhere they certainly do, though not perhaps as much as they ought; for the clown of those YouTube clips is also the maker of some of the most inspiring and disturbing movies of the last 50 years.

In Grizzly Man (2005), partly as a counterpoint to the saccharine, Disneyesque view of nature held by that movie’s bear-loving hero, Herzog glumly declares: “I believe that the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder.” It’s no surprise that one of the last things Ian Curtis of Joy Division did before hanging himself was to watch Herzog’s Stroszeck (1977). Given the opportunity to shoot in the Antarctic, another director might have succumbed to the temptation to reproduce the anthropomorphic cuteness of Oscar-winning March of the PenguinsEncounters at the End of the World (2007) steers clear of the cuddly for as long as possible, and when it finally succumbs to the bird’s allure, Herzog focuses on “penguin prostitution” and the suicidal impulses of penguins, who for no discernible reason suddenly depart the colony, and head inland, waddling forlornly across the ice towards the distant south pole and inevitable death.

In overview, his movies can look like a series of Graham Greene novels rewritten by DH Lawrence. Just as Greene had Greeneland, Herzog has Herzogland, and the two realms, at the very least, share a border. Like Greene, Herzog would presumably assert that the place of his films is no invented country, but simply the world as in fact it is. The variety of locales and milieux in his films is astonishing: from the Peruvian jungle in the stunning Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972) to the Biedermeier Germany of Nosferatu and Woyzeck (both from 1979); from the dusty pre-tourist Lanzarote of Even Dwarfs Started Small (1969) to the science-fiction landscapes of the Kuwaiti oil fires after the first Iraq war in Lessons of Darkness (1992). The richness of his interests is amazing: ecstatically devout pilgrims; prehistoric cave paintings; fast-talking American auctioneers; ski‑jumpers; TV evangelists; Siberian trappers; the blind, deaf and dumb. He has made more than 60 films, both fiction and documentaries, and, in total, they look like the life’s work of several directors, yet all maintain the spirit of one man’s view of this disparate planet. With their eye for the strangeness in the world, the unaccountable in human beings, these films can haunt you.

[…] There are few film-makers less interested in the everyday world of supermarkets, mortgage payments and Sky Sports. Herzog does not despise the “ordinary person”, for it is hard to picture him believing in such a rare creature and to imagine him despising anyone. Yet in the background of his films lingers a sorrowing contempt for the blithe, banal member of “the public” – that hypothetical person who accepts society as it is, who believes bread will always come ready-packaged, and who is too busy updating their Facebook page to notice how at any moment nature might sweep us all off the Earth. Thankfully, this putative character rarely appears in person in his films.

For all Herzog’s people – as much in the documentaries as in the feature films – are instead shown in relation to a moral or existential abyss. Hence his recent interest in the murderers on death row. In the most disturbing Herzog films, human life is a beleaguered property, a flicker of consciousness sustained within an equally flimsy civilisation. The experience of being a child of the ruins in Germany after the second world war perhaps injected him with this sense, living as he did in the moral and physical collapse of a culture.

His God is nature – but not a gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild tree-hugger’s nature, but a terrifying, unappeasable Old Testament Jehovah. Perhaps with Terrence Malick, he is one of the last film-makers to have a feeling for the sublime. His moral landscape emerges from this space – frail, plucky humanity holding the gap between an indifferent nature and a punishing God. There his people endeavour to make meaning in their lives. In the process he presents unimaginable people – as in Fata Morgana’s (1970) desert characters: the piano-playing madam and drum-playing begoggled pimp playing cabaret music in the Lanzarote brothel; the shellshocked Foreign Legion deserter clinging to a ragged letter from his mother; the lizard-loving German. One actor in particular will be associated with Herzog for ever – Klaus Kinski, who appeared in five Herzog films. To channel Kinksi’s rage and arrogance productively on to the screen was a huge achievement. However, a far greater one was to elicit Kinski’s tenderness, his joy, and even his reserve.

Herzog’s love is kept for whatever it is in human beings that strives for connection, for meaning – even when the form those strivings take seem weird, misplaced and mad. It’s there in Dieter Dengler’s passion for flying, an obsession for safety and freedom in the skies that began when, as a small boy, he gazed on as an American plane strafed his Bavarian village.

"Into the Abyss" by Werner Herzog

In his fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill-and why a state kills. In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen), Herzog achieves what he describes as “a gaze into the abyss of the human soul.” Herzog’s inquiries also extend to the families of the victims and perpetrators as well as a state executioner and pastor who’ve been with death row prisoners as they’ve taken their final breaths. As he’s so often done before, Herzog’s investigation unveils layers of humanity, making an enlightening trip out of ominous territory. — (C) Official Site

"Into the Abyss" by Werner Herzog

In his fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill-and why a state kills. In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen), Herzog achieves what he describes as “a gaze into the abyss of the human soul.” Herzog’s inquiries also extend to the families of the victims and perpetrators as well as a state executioner and pastor who’ve been with death row prisoners as they’ve taken their final breaths. As he’s so often done before, Herzog’s investigation unveils layers of humanity, making an enlightening trip out of ominous territory. — (C) Official Site

(Source: tarkovskian)


Encounters at the End of the World
Bill Jirsa is a computer technician working for Raytheon in the United States Antarctic Program and was interviewed when Herzog came to the ice in the austral summer of 2006 by permission of NSF’s Writers and Artist’s Grant. Jirsa is a featured interviewee in Herzog’s documentary.This is an insightful and thorough review of Werner Herzog’s Antarctic documentary “Encounters at the End of the World”, as written by Bill Jirsa.
"While other documentaries have gone to this rarely seen part of the world, in Herzog’s hands it becomes about the magical underworld. The scientists [sic] are not boring nerds, but world travelers and poets. One man [Bill Jirsa] working is a trained linguist, living in a place where no language originates. Another man takes a break from his welding to explain his Apache royal heritage. A woman doing research [sic] relates tons of stories of near deaths in various countries, including going from city to city in a sewer pipe that was on the back of a truck, a free ride. Meanwhile the surroundings above and below the ice look like outer space, filled with new species found every day. Herzog takes Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and gives it existential balls. He comes to the conclusion that nature will not put up with humans forever, sooner or later taking the Earth back from us.” —Mike Plante, writing at Filmmaker Magazine blog
Documentaries of Antarctica tend to follow the accepted principles of documentaries about nature: equal parts pious and sentimental. If they chronicle the people, they do so with reverence for science and exploration. They report the drama of discovery with a dash of personal danger and two shakes of sacrifice for the nobility of human inquiry. For all the drama, they seldom delve deeply into the intellectual particulars that are the backdrop of the day-to-day tedium of science-that would be dull television. While PBS no longer maintains a monopoly on the format, it seems we can depend on a burgeoning list of cable outlets to add to the genre a beautifully produced, if formulaic hour of this sort annually.
About the wildlife, a typical Antarctic documentary parades before the lens charismatic megafauna and never fails to anthropomorphize: Circus tunes for the tuxedo-bound, clowning penguins, sinister scores for the menacing leopard seals. While we alternately fear them and fear for their extinction, the appropriate response is a concoction of wonder and respect (upon which we are often invited to attach our own favorite ideals: witness the sensation of March of the Penguins turning Emperor Penguins, briefly anyhow, into an icon of family values.)
About the environment (so stark and yet so beautiful!), the Antarctic documentary is obliged to the aesthetics of a Sierra Club calendar. The romantic notion of pristine environment dictates that the landscape is portrayed sans humanity. IMAX Antarctica, for example, strangely concedes a population without once allowing them to talk. The only speaking role is the narrator, whose awestruck, yet formal accent renders Mount Erebus with a rolled ‘r.’, Wilderness is a temple, the tone suggests. Although in 1991, the case for global warming was still couched in hypothetical consequences, the IMAX film is a primary example of the orthodoxy of the green documentary.
These principles have been the codified standards of nature documentaries since the rise of the conservation movement in the seventies. That’s when the old guard-Marlin Perkins, et al. looking like scholarly Hemingways in their khaki safari garb and broadcasting weekly episodes of men dominant among the kingdom of beasts-turned over the watch to Wild America, for example. (That sturdy PBS series and paean to modern ecology, was soaked in piety and sentimentality, with ideals as furry as Marty Stauffer, its hirsute host.) Forty years later, the hairstyles have changed again but the values guiding nature documentaries have not. (The late Steve Irwin, with the Discovery channel, resurrected the man vs beast format with an extreme-sports spin for the Mountain Dew generation, but even the Croc Hunter had a green heart.)
This formula endures because it works. It re-enforces what we want to believe about the wild nature. The romantic notions our culture maintains about the value of wilderness and wild nature do not always jibe with our relationship to it. But we read these values into our relationship to the place when we send people to Antarctica to study and explore, so the films we make about our experience here are testimonials to that purpose.
Particularly if you have weathered our mass culture’s most recent obsession with penguins from the Antarctic, it’s hard not to be titillated in the first five minutes of Encounters at the End of the World when Herzog, in the halting Bavarian accent that is instantly familiar to viewers of Grizzly Man, announces that this Antarctic documentary will not be about “fluffy penguins.” This maverick director has just confessed his filmmaking axiom: bugger the rules. Whatever its merits and foibles, Herzog’s contribution to the cinematic representation of the last continent is something new.
No doubt, Herzog fills his lens with images of sublime grandeur, but they are just as likely to hold in the foreground a clattering Caterpillar tractor raking over permafrost. Before the cathedral-like backdrop of the Transantarctic Mountains, a C-17 cargo jet, trailing a greasy plume of exhaust, lands on an ice runway. Researchers take a break from the noble quest for knowledge to watch campy science fiction movies by generator power or celebrate the discovery of a new species with a raucous outdoor blues jam under the midnight sun.
The piety in this film, at least the conventional brand, is gone. No misty-eyed reverie over sepia stills of Old Time Explorers. No preachy warnings about global warming. Penguins make an appearance, but only for a moment of speculation about homosexuality in the breeding colonies (touché family values) and then to linger on the plight of a straggler whose behavior Herzog interprets as “deranged.”

Probably one of my favorite documentaries of all time.

Encounters at the End of the World

Bill Jirsa is a computer technician working for Raytheon in the United States Antarctic Program and was interviewed when Herzog came to the ice in the austral summer of 2006 by permission of NSF’s Writers and Artist’s Grant. Jirsa is a featured interviewee in Herzog’s documentary.This is an insightful and thorough review of Werner Herzog’s Antarctic documentary “Encounters at the End of the World”, as written by Bill Jirsa.

"While other documentaries have gone to this rarely seen part of the world, in Herzog’s hands it becomes about the magical underworld. The scientists [sic] are not boring nerds, but world travelers and poets. One man [Bill Jirsa] working is a trained linguist, living in a place where no language originates. Another man takes a break from his welding to explain his Apache royal heritage. A woman doing research [sic] relates tons of stories of near deaths in various countries, including going from city to city in a sewer pipe that was on the back of a truck, a free ride. Meanwhile the surroundings above and below the ice look like outer space, filled with new species found every day. Herzog takes Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and gives it existential balls. He comes to the conclusion that nature will not put up with humans forever, sooner or later taking the Earth back from us.” —Mike Plante, writing at Filmmaker Magazine blog

Documentaries of Antarctica tend to follow the accepted principles of documentaries about nature: equal parts pious and sentimental. If they chronicle the people, they do so with reverence for science and exploration. They report the drama of discovery with a dash of personal danger and two shakes of sacrifice for the nobility of human inquiry. For all the drama, they seldom delve deeply into the intellectual particulars that are the backdrop of the day-to-day tedium of science-that would be dull television. While PBS no longer maintains a monopoly on the format, it seems we can depend on a burgeoning list of cable outlets to add to the genre a beautifully produced, if formulaic hour of this sort annually.

About the wildlife, a typical Antarctic documentary parades before the lens charismatic megafauna and never fails to anthropomorphize: Circus tunes for the tuxedo-bound, clowning penguins, sinister scores for the menacing leopard seals. While we alternately fear them and fear for their extinction, the appropriate response is a concoction of wonder and respect (upon which we are often invited to attach our own favorite ideals: witness the sensation of March of the Penguins turning Emperor Penguins, briefly anyhow, into an icon of family values.)

About the environment (so stark and yet so beautiful!), the Antarctic documentary is obliged to the aesthetics of a Sierra Club calendar. The romantic notion of pristine environment dictates that the landscape is portrayed sans humanity. IMAX Antarctica, for example, strangely concedes a population without once allowing them to talk. The only speaking role is the narrator, whose awestruck, yet formal accent renders Mount Erebus with a rolled ‘r.’, Wilderness is a temple, the tone suggests. Although in 1991, the case for global warming was still couched in hypothetical consequences, the IMAX film is a primary example of the orthodoxy of the green documentary.

These principles have been the codified standards of nature documentaries since the rise of the conservation movement in the seventies. That’s when the old guard-Marlin Perkins, et al. looking like scholarly Hemingways in their khaki safari garb and broadcasting weekly episodes of men dominant among the kingdom of beasts-turned over the watch to Wild America, for example. (That sturdy PBS series and paean to modern ecology, was soaked in piety and sentimentality, with ideals as furry as Marty Stauffer, its hirsute host.) Forty years later, the hairstyles have changed again but the values guiding nature documentaries have not. (The late Steve Irwin, with the Discovery channel, resurrected the man vs beast format with an extreme-sports spin for the Mountain Dew generation, but even the Croc Hunter had a green heart.)

This formula endures because it works. It re-enforces what we want to believe about the wild nature. The romantic notions our culture maintains about the value of wilderness and wild nature do not always jibe with our relationship to it. But we read these values into our relationship to the place when we send people to Antarctica to study and explore, so the films we make about our experience here are testimonials to that purpose.

Particularly if you have weathered our mass culture’s most recent obsession with penguins from the Antarctic, it’s hard not to be titillated in the first five minutes of Encounters at the End of the World when Herzog, in the halting Bavarian accent that is instantly familiar to viewers of Grizzly Man, announces that this Antarctic documentary will not be about “fluffy penguins.” This maverick director has just confessed his filmmaking axiom: bugger the rules. Whatever its merits and foibles, Herzog’s contribution to the cinematic representation of the last continent is something new.

No doubt, Herzog fills his lens with images of sublime grandeur, but they are just as likely to hold in the foreground a clattering Caterpillar tractor raking over permafrost. Before the cathedral-like backdrop of the Transantarctic Mountains, a C-17 cargo jet, trailing a greasy plume of exhaust, lands on an ice runway. Researchers take a break from the noble quest for knowledge to watch campy science fiction movies by generator power or celebrate the discovery of a new species with a raucous outdoor blues jam under the midnight sun.

The piety in this film, at least the conventional brand, is gone. No misty-eyed reverie over sepia stills of Old Time Explorers. No preachy warnings about global warming. Penguins make an appearance, but only for a moment of speculation about homosexuality in the breeding colonies (touché family values) and then to linger on the plight of a straggler whose behavior Herzog interprets as “deranged.”

Probably one of my favorite documentaries of all time.

Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog: “In the most hostile, barren, alien environment on the planet…you meet the most interesting people. Welcome to Antarctica – like you’ve never experienced it. You’ve seen the extraordinary marine life, the retreating glaciers and, of course, the penguins, but leave it to award-winning, iconoclastic filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn) to be the first to explore the South Pole’s most fascinating inhabitants…humans. In this one-of-kind documentary, Herzog turns his camera on a group of remarkable individuals, “professional dreamers” who work, play and struggle to survive in a harsh landscape of mesmerizing, otherworldly beauty – perhaps the last frontier on earth.”

This is one of my favorite documentary. Here’s a review I wrote a while ago:

As director Werner Herzog says at the beginning of the documentary in the voice over narration, this is not a film about “fuzzy penguins.” Herzog’s film is unlike most other documentaries about Antarctica. Like many of Herzog’s films, Encounters at the End of the World is something of spellbinding beauty and wonder but beside the visually stunning beauty that we may have seen before, it goes a bit deeper and present the history of the continent and the people who works there in an different way. The scenes are massive in scale and include glaciers, mountains, underwater breathtaking scenes, human interaction and a thorough dissection of the land and the people that inhabit Antarctica. There is also some heartbreaking and amazing history like the famous Shackleton’s journey throughout the film. The documentary perfectly balances both gorgeous footage of the continent as well as fascinating interviews of a crew of scientists, engineers, travelers, and other eccentrics from all over the world who lives in the outpost of McMurdo Station. It asks the questions: what draws man to live among such a harsh environment? Who are humans in the face of such awesome natural forces? Herzog seems to love to bring up the conflict between Man versus Nature in his documentaries, and that is also the case in Encounters, a film that concludes in some way that human life is slowly reaching its inevitable conclusion on planet Earth. Overall, Encounters of the End of the World is an haunting, eerie, and mind-blowing documentary.

(Source: sunrec)


Werner Herzog on death, danger and the end of the world
He’s risked his life to make films, been shot at, and his latest film investigates a triple homicide. So is Werner Herzog fascinated by death? No, he tells Steve Rose, he’s just not afraid of it.
Some years ago, Werner Herzog was on an internal flight somewhere in Colorado and the plane’s landing gear wouldn’t come down. They would have to make an emergency landing. The runway was covered in foam and flanked by scores of fire engines. “We were ordered to crouch down with our faces on our knees and hold our legs,” says Herzog, “and I refused to do it.” The stewardess was very upset, the co-pilot came out from the cabin and ordered him to do as he was told. “I said, ‘If we perish I want to see what’s coming at me, and if we survive, I want to see it as well. I’m not posing a danger to anyone by not being in this shitty, undignified position.’” In the end, the plane landed normally. Herzog was banned from the airline for life but, he laughs, it went bust two years later anyway.Herzog tells this story to illustrate how he’ll face anything that’s thrown at him, as if that was ever in any doubt. Now approaching his 70th birthday, the German film-maker has assumed legendary status for facing things others wouldn’t. He’s lived a life packed with intrepid movie shoots, far-flung locations and general high-stakes film-making. He has a biography too dense to summarise. But his tale also confirms the suspicion that he’s helplessly drawn to danger and death. Or vice versa.
Herzog’s fictional features often entertain notions of civilisation fallen apart – from the mini-revolution in Even Dwarfs Started Small to the semi-abstract deserts of Fata Morgana to the psychotic barbarism of Aguirre, Wrath Of God. His documentaries, too, frequently focus on characters who’ve come close enough to the final curtain to almost peep behind it. There was Dieter Dengler, the shot-down pilot who nearly starved to death in Laos in Little Dieter Needs To Fly. There was Juliane Koepcke in Wings Of Hope, sole survivor of a plane that crashed into the Peruvian jungle – a plane that Herzog himself was supposed to be on. In Grizzly Man, Herzog even listens on headphones as the movie’s subject is mauled to death by the wild bears he so foolishly venerated. Even when he’s off duty, danger seems to seek out Herzog – as when he was randomly shot with an air rifle halfway through a television interview, or the time he rescued Joaquin Phoenix from a car crash outside his house. The grim reaper seems to follow him like a groupie.
In his latest documentary, Herzog faces death more squarely than ever. The full title of the film is Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life, and its subject matter is a grisly triple homicide that’s rendered even more tragic by its pointlessness. Herzog covers all bases, talking to the perpetrators (one of whom was subsequently executed), their families, the victims’ family, the authorities, and so on. He dispenses with his trademark Bavarian-accented voiceover here, though his gently forthright questioning and nose for everyday surrealism prove remarkably effective. When he asks the prison chaplain, “Please describe an encounter with a squirrel,” for example, he gets an emotional outpouring on the beauty of life and the horror of watching another human being die.

Werner Herzog on death, danger and the end of the world

He’s risked his life to make films, been shot at, and his latest film investigates a triple homicide. So is Werner Herzog fascinated by death? No, he tells Steve Rose, he’s just not afraid of it.

Some years ago, Werner Herzog was on an internal flight somewhere in Colorado and the plane’s landing gear wouldn’t come down. They would have to make an emergency landing. The runway was covered in foam and flanked by scores of fire engines. “We were ordered to crouch down with our faces on our knees and hold our legs,” says Herzog, “and I refused to do it.” The stewardess was very upset, the co-pilot came out from the cabin and ordered him to do as he was told. “I said, ‘If we perish I want to see what’s coming at me, and if we survive, I want to see it as well. I’m not posing a danger to anyone by not being in this shitty, undignified position.’” In the end, the plane landed normally. Herzog was banned from the airline for life but, he laughs, it went bust two years later anyway.Herzog tells this story to illustrate how he’ll face anything that’s thrown at him, as if that was ever in any doubt. Now approaching his 70th birthday, the German film-maker has assumed legendary status for facing things others wouldn’t. He’s lived a life packed with intrepid movie shoots, far-flung locations and general high-stakes film-making. He has a biography too dense to summarise. But his tale also confirms the suspicion that he’s helplessly drawn to danger and death. Or vice versa.

Herzog’s fictional features often entertain notions of civilisation fallen apart – from the mini-revolution in Even Dwarfs Started Small to the semi-abstract deserts of Fata Morgana to the psychotic barbarism of Aguirre, Wrath Of God. His documentaries, too, frequently focus on characters who’ve come close enough to the final curtain to almost peep behind it. There was Dieter Dengler, the shot-down pilot who nearly starved to death in Laos in Little Dieter Needs To Fly. There was Juliane Koepcke in Wings Of Hope, sole survivor of a plane that crashed into the Peruvian jungle – a plane that Herzog himself was supposed to be on. In Grizzly Man, Herzog even listens on headphones as the movie’s subject is mauled to death by the wild bears he so foolishly venerated. Even when he’s off duty, danger seems to seek out Herzog – as when he was randomly shot with an air rifle halfway through a television interview, or the time he rescued Joaquin Phoenix from a car crash outside his house. The grim reaper seems to follow him like a groupie.

In his latest documentary, Herzog faces death more squarely than ever. The full title of the film is Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life, and its subject matter is a grisly triple homicide that’s rendered even more tragic by its pointlessness. Herzog covers all bases, talking to the perpetrators (one of whom was subsequently executed), their families, the victims’ family, the authorities, and so on. He dispenses with his trademark Bavarian-accented voiceover here, though his gently forthright questioning and nose for everyday surrealism prove remarkably effective. When he asks the prison chaplain, “Please describe an encounter with a squirrel,” for example, he gets an emotional outpouring on the beauty of life and the horror of watching another human being die.

This short film by American director Ramin Bahrani traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world.

Lovely short film. Werner Herzog makes the simple story of a plastic bag sound incredibly moving and poetic. The ideas, the cinematography and the writing are brilliant. It not only depicts the damage we humans are making on the environment, but also talks about the concept of mortality/immortality in a pretty original way. 

Encounters at the End of the World is one of my favorite documentary. Here’s a review I wrote a while ago.

"In the most hostile, barren, alien environment on the planet…you meet the most interesting people. Welcome to Antarctica – like you’ve never experienced it. You’ve seen the extraordinary marine life, the retreating glaciers and, of course, the penguins, but leave it to award-winning, iconoclastic filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn) to be the first to explore the South Pole’s most fascinating inhabitants…humans. In this one-of-kind documentary, Herzog turns his camera on a group of remarkable individuals, “professional dreamers” who work, play and struggle to survive in a harsh landscape of mesmerizing, otherworldly beauty – perhaps the last frontier on earth."

As director Werner Herzog says at the beginning of the documentary in the voice over narration, this is not a film about “fuzzy penguins.” Herzog’s film is unlike most other documentaries about Antarctica. Like many of Herzog’s films, Encounters at the End of the World is something of spellbinding beauty and wonder but beside the visually stunning beauty that we may have seen before, it goes a bit deeper and present the history of the continent and the people who works there in an different way. The scenes are massive in scale and include glaciers, mountains, underwater breathtaking scenes, human interaction and a thorough dissection of the land and the people that inhabit Antarctica. There is also some heartbreaking and amazing history like the famous Shackleton’s journey throughout the film. The documentary perfectly balances both gorgeous footage of the continent as well as fascinating interviews of a crew of scientists, engineers, travelers, and other eccentrics from all over the world who lives in the outpost of McMurdo Station. It asks the questions: what draws man to live among such a harsh environment? Who are humans in the face of such awesome natural forces? Herzog seems to love to bring up the conflict between Man versus Nature in his documentaries, and that is also the case in Encounters, a film that concludes in some way that human life is slowly reaching its inevitable conclusion on planet Earth. Overall, Encounters of the End of the World is an haunting, eerie, and mind-blowing documentary. I highly recommend it.

This short film by American director Ramin Bahrani traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world.

This is one of my all time favorite short-film. Werner Herzog makes this simple story sound incredibly moving and poetic. And the ideas, the cinematography and the writing are also brilliant. This video not only depicts the damage we humans are making on the environment, but also the concept of mortality and immortality in an original way.