Werner Herzog
  • Fitzcarraldo
  • Nosferatu
  • Aguirre
  • Cobra Verde
  • Woyzeck
  • Introduction

  • Bio

  • Publications

  • Links

  • More contexts

Borderline Experience

One constant in German director Werner Herzog’s work is without a doubt the tireless exhaustion of boundaries. For one it is the films’ stories about outsiders who frequently strive to make the humanly impossible possible, such as adventurer Fitzcarraldo (Klaus Kinski), who hopes to erect an opera house in the middle of the South American rainforest. And it is the films themselves, in which the director offers the viewer a singular exceptional experience. Plumbing our physical and mental boundaries is often reflected in hypnotic scenes, moments, and approaches that allow the viewer to take part in a deeper experience on the edge of the representable.

Herzog never tires of using films as a method of creating a state of exception. What is exceptional is that the director is capable of expressing the inexpressible in peaceful and powerful images. The precise compositions in which Herzog continually uses to portray the conflict between opposing individual and internal and external forces unfold in a visual language that does not devolve into chaos but rather gracefully creates its own order.

With his unique visual logic Herzog is able to make the sensually experiential fields of tensions that arise out of his recurring themes. For example, the tensions between mankind and nature in films such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1981/82). The tension might also be between the individual and authority, as is the case in Herzog’s 1979 screen adaptation of Georg Büchner, in which Klaus Kinski as Woyzeck battles the captivating architecture of a nineteenth-century garrison town like Don Quijote.

Despite the originality of Herzog’s aesthetic world, it is not without reference points. Herzog’s Nosferatu has as its roots Murnau’s classic 1921 film, which revolutionized visual, cinematic storytelling at the time. But Herzog leans not only on the aesthetic motifs of his predecessors but much more on the atmosphere and emotions of silent films, which Herzog transports with references to pre-Raphaelite and Victorian portrait painting without simply mimicking these methods of painting.

If it is in Herzog’s Nosferatu (1978) the young Isabelle Adjani who represents one pole of the tension of sexual desire in contrast to the invisible presence of danger, then it is Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula who represents the antipole. It ultimately required an actor of no less talent than Kinski to literally give Herzog’s liminal figure a face. Herzog found in Kinski an actor able to incomparably fill the screen while testing the boundaries of the body and mind. Kinski, whom Herzog portrays as a choleric man in his documentary My Best Fiend (1999), always represents the furthest extreme of the unfolding conflicts. These are expressed in the contrast of Kinski’s physiognomy to the geometry of the parade grounds in Woyzeck.

The LUMAS edition brings together a selection of prints from Herzog and Kinski’s collaborations that have been taken directly from the film negatives. In contrast to still photography, the unique compositions Herzog conceived in the film are perfectly preserved.

1942    Born in Munich, Germany
1942 - 1954crows up in Sachrang, Bavaria
1954    comes back to Munich
1962    First movie Herakles

Founded his own produktion company Werner Herzog Filmproduktion in Munich

1964    Scholarship in Pittsburgh, USA, breaks it up after three days
1968    First movie Lebenszeichen
1995    Moves to the USA

Lives and works in Los Angeles, USA

Awards (Selection)

2006 Directors Guild of America für Grizzly Man
2005Venedig Filmfestspiele, Fipresci Award for The Wild Blue Yonder

Sundance Film Festival, Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
1999    San Francisco International Film Festival, Golden Spire für Little Dieter Needs To Fly

São Paulo International Film Festival, Audience Award for Mein liebster Feind - Klaus Kinski
1997    International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Special Award form the jury for Little Dieter Needs To Fly
1993    Melbourne International Film Festival, Grand Prix for Lektionen in Finsternis
1984    Deutscher Filmpreis, Filmband in Gold für Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen

Gilde Filmpreis, Gilde-Filmpreis in Gold in the category German Film for Fitzcarraldo
1982Cannes Filmfestspiele, Award as best director for Fitzcarraldo

Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia-San Sebastián, OCIC-Award für Fitzcarraldo

Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia-San Sebastián, OCIC-Award for Fitzcarraldo
1981Gilde Filmpreis, Gilde-Filmpreis in Silber in the category German Film for Woyzeck
1978    Deutscher Filmpreis, Filmband in Silber for La Soufrière - Warten auf eine unausweichliche Katastrophe
1976    Le Syndicat Français de la Critique de Cinéma, Kritikerpreis for Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
1975    Cannes Filmfestspiele, Fipresci Preis, Grand Prix der Jury for Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Kaspar Hauser)

Deutscher Filmpreis, Filmband in Silber for Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Kaspar Hauser)
1968    Deutscher Filmpreis, Filmband in  Silber, for Lebenszeichen

Books/Catalogs (Selection)

Vom Gehen im Eis, Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2009

Eroberung des Nutzlosen, Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2009

Poesietherapie, Ganderkesee, EPLA – Verlag, 2009

Werner Herzog (Werner Herzog und Beat Presser), Jovis Verlag, Berlin, 2003

Reden über das eigene Land, Bertelsmann Verlag, München, 1984

Zehn Gedichte, Akzente Nr. 3, München, 1978

Additional Information

Filmographie (Auswahl)

2010Cave of forgotten Dreams
2009Bad Lieutenant – Cop ohne Gewissen
2007    Encounters at the End of the World
2005    Grizzly Man

The Wild Blue Yonder
1999    Mein liebster Feind
1997    Little Dieter Needs to Fly
1993    Glocken aus der Tiefe
1992    Lektionen in Finsternis
1987    Cobra Verde
1984    Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen

Gasherbrum - Der leuchtende Berg
1982    Fitzcarraldo
1979    Woyzeck

Nosferatu – Phantom der Nacht
1977    La Soufrière - Warten auf eine unausweichliche Katastrophe
1976    Stroszek
1974    Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Kaspar Hauser)
1972    Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
1970    Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen
1968    Lebenszeichnen
1964    Spiel im Sand
1962    Herakles

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