Werner Herzog… eating shoes, fearing chickens, and exploring the desolation of mankind with hypnotised actors

It’s not at all how I intended to spend this evening, but, thanks to stumbling on an epic Metafilter post about Werner Herzog, I’m now jumping around between the 43 of his films which can be found streaming online. At the moment, I’m knee deep in Herz aus Glas (Heart of Glass), Herzog’s 1976 film about a small community of 18th-century Bavarian glassblowers that descends into madness when their master glassblower dies, taking the secret of how to make the red ruby glass for which they’re famous with him to his grave. It is “a vision of man’s future as desolation,” said Roger Ebert… a film about “the rise and collapse of the industrial revolution, the despair of communities depending on manufacture, (and) the aimlessness of men and women without a sense of purpose.” It’s dark stuff, made all the more unsettling by the fact that almost all of the actors were given their lines and filmed while under hypnosis. It’s certainly slow by today’s standards, but it’s absolutely brilliant.

And, here, because I rarely have an opportunity to share my considerable wealth of Werner Herzog knowledge, are my seven favorite facts about the German director… 1. He was once shot while giving an interview, and responded by saying, “It was not a significant bullet. I am not afraid.” 2. While not afraid of bullets, he is deathly afraid of chickens. 3. He once rescued Joaquin Phoenix from a burning car. 4. It took him 35 years to discover that his friend John Waters was gay. 5. He once cooked and ate his own shoe after losing a bet loosing a bet with Erroll Morris. 6. He once plotted the murder of his friend Klaus Kinski. 7. He’s got the most lovely voice in the world. If you don’t believe me, visit the Werner Herzog soundboard, where you can hear him repeatedly utter signature phrases like; “there is no harmony in the universe,” “fornication and asphyxiation,” “just rotting away,” “mysery that is all around us,” and “the enormity of their stupidity.”

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  1. Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    If anyone out there wants to be hypnotised and filmed, let me know. I’ve got some ideas percolating.

  2. anonymous
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    He should totally start a fried chicken restaurant.

  3. Mr. Y
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Herzog has a film school:

    The Rogue Film School will be in the form of weekend seminars held by Werner Herzog in person at varying locations and at infrequent intervals.

    The number of participants will be limited to a maximum of 65.

    Locations and dates will be announced on this website and Werner Herzog’s website: http://www.wernerherzog.com approximately 12 weeks in advance.

    The Rogue Film School will not teach anything technical related to film-making. For this purpose, please enroll at your local film school.

    The Rogue Film School is about a way of life. It is about a climate, the excitement that makes film possible. It will be about poetry, films, music, images, literature.

    The focus of the seminars will be a dialogue with Werner Herzog, in which the participants will have their voice with their projects, their questions, their aspirations.

    Excerpts of films will be discussed, which could include your submitted films; they may be shown and discussed as well. Depending on the materials, the attention will revolve around essential questions: how does music function in film? How do you narrate a story? (This will certainly depart from the brainless teachings of three-act-screenplays). How do you sensitize an audience? How is space created and understood by an audience? How do you produce and edit a film? How do you create illumination and an ecstasy of truth?

    Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance.

    Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.

    Related, but more reflective, will be a reading list. Required reading: Virgil’s “Georgics”, Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, and Baker’s “The Peregrine” (New York Review Books Edition published by HarperCollins). Suggested reading: The Warren Commission Report, “The Poetic Edda”, translated by Lee M. Hollander (in particular The Prophecy of the Seeress), Bernal Diaz del Castillo “True History of the Conquest of New Spain”.

    Required film viewing list: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, dir. John Huston), Viva Zapata (1952, dir. Elia Kazan), The Battle of Algiers (1966, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo), the Apu trilogy (1955-1959, dir. Satyajit Ray), and, if available, “Where is the Friend’s Home?” (1987, dir. Abbas Kiarostami).

    Follow your vision. Form secretive Rogue Cells everywhere. At the same time, be not afraid of solitude.

  4. Eel
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Best Herzog quote ever: ‘Yoga will not make you into a great filmmaker as it empties out your thoughts’

  5. Kat
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    8. He stole his first camera.

    A fifteen-page encyclopedia entry on filmmaking gave him ‘everything I needed to get myself started,’ and a pilfered 35-mm camera from the Munich Film School gave him the tools, a theft he has since justified on Nietzschean grounds: ‘I know it was not theft. I had a natural right to take it.’ He would make his first seven films with that camera.”


  6. Rick Cronn
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    And not a single mention of Ypsi anywhere in the post?

  7. Ebola
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Werner Herzog also claims to be able to hypnotize chickens.

  8. idea man
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    You could make heart of glass in Ypsi with puppetry instead of glass blowing. Dead serious.

  9. Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    I had a film professor (who eerily resembled Charles Roberts) in Germany who despised Herzog.

  10. Savannah Kzykowski
    Posted May 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I like to imagine that my father is Werner Herzog. He’s not. But I like to imagine that he is. Herzog, I think, would make a wonderful father. My father, not so much. He’s nothing. He’s barely there. He breathes, eats and shits, but doesn’t live.

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