Werner Herzog Season: Herzog’s HBO
I love to share. As previously mentioned I’ve recently started this mammoth Herzog career retrospective / ideological primer on how one should live their life, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not immediately aligning my screening of the BFI programme with a simultaneous digestion of the book – roughly speaking it also moves chronologically through the great man’s career. It is, in a word, magnificent, a hilariously amusing patchwork of career anecdotes, observations on the art and industry of film, the pursuit of an indestructible code to structure ones behaviour, all of which is punctuated with his philosophical musings on our pathetic species and our fruitless scrabble for meaning and purpose in the vast and infinite universe. Specifically I just felt I had to share with you Werner’s view on TV which had me crying with laughter on the train this morning;
‘One of the great achievements of communal life is our ability to create narratives, something we have been doing since Neanderthal times. We should cherish this flame we have inside all of us and get on our knees and thank the creator for having endowed us with the gift of storytelling, something caveman huddled around campfires understood and appreciated. Instead, today, Television with its incessant commercials, our consumer culture has destroyed any semblance of dignity we might have once had. We are fragmenting and fracturing stories for the sake of business. We grow up enveloped by fifteen second storytelling and are conditioned by filmmaking at breakneck pace. Decades from now, our great-great grandchildren will look back in amazement at how we could have allowed a precious achievement of human culture like storytelling to be so disrespected, infected, then shredded by advertising. It will be the same amazement we see today, when we look at our ancestors, for whom slavery, the burning of witches, capital punishment and the inquisition were everyday acceptable events. We will be blamed for not throwing hand grenades into Television stations and laying waste to their institutionalised cowardice, for not taking up arms and occupying such debased places which venerate that single, pernicious god; the Einschaltquote, the ratings. It has always been their golden calf. It has nothing to do with me or my films.‘
To be fair he is prone to intentional hyperbole and he does go on to say this, but he still, y’know, has a point; ‘I sound so negative about this, but fortunately there is another side to it. Television specialises in those early morning satellite experiences, like the Ali / Foreman fight of the moon landing. I was so excited I nearly had a heart attack over those. Over the last decade standards have risen when it comes storytelling on Television. It is wonderful to see audiences immersing themselves in such intelligent narratives that play out over a period of years. Many of these series are expertly written, acted and directed, with a great sense of pace and long-running timing.’ I wonder if he prefers Breaking Bad or Sex & The City?
I could construct a whole side-blog of Herzogisms, in fact I wonder if anyone else has, there must be a faux-twitter account, right? Finally, before we move on with the season with the difficult to decipher Woyzeck this made me chortle ‘It is frustrating that astronauts never take advantage of the photographic possibilities available to them. On one of the Apollo missions they left a camera on the moon, slowly panning from left to right, then right to left for days. I yearned to grab the damn thing. There are so many possibilities up there for fresh images, and I always thought it would be better to send up a poet rather than an astronaut…..’