Commenter of the Day: Werner Herzog Edition

One of our most favorite non-Peter Brock or Dan Gurney heroes is Bavarian filmmaker extraordinaire Werner Herzog. You might remember him from such German new wave classics as Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo or the totally under-appreciated Cobra Verde. Hell, you might even like some of his non-Klaus Kinski work like Heart of Glass, Stroszek and my favorite Little Dieter Needs to Fly. One of the (many) great Herzogian axioms is his distinction between fact and truth. For instance, in Little Dieter — a documentary — he has Dieter Dengler open and close every door twice to symbolize his Laotian prison camp experience. In real life did Dieter do that? No, but it got a point across. The fib was what Herzog refers to as an "ecstatic truth." Just turning on his camera and hitting record would be "the truth of accountants." Speaking of which...

Today some of you saw my review of the Chevy HHR SS, a car I was certain would be half dead on arrival from accountants' hands wrapped round its throat. Wrong! Chevy made a great handling little car (is nearly 3,300 pounds "little?") that enthusiasts of modest means should stick on their shortlists. Or, as Mad_Science puts it:

Dis' on it all you want (did I just say "dis"?), but this is GM getting back to what American cars do well: lots of power in a halfway decent car for cheap. This is a big step forward in recognizing that people like fast cars with manual transmissions.

You might hate it, but there's a good chance it'll smoke you at the next on-ramp or stoplight...possibly while carrying flowers in the back.

That's the truth, ecstatic Ruth. And just for grins, check out Herzog's Minnesota Declaration, and hell, Lessons of Darkness, too:

Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema
"LESSONS OF DARKNESS"

1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.

2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. "For me," he says, "there should be only one single law: the bad guys should go to jail."
Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.

3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.

4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.

5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.

6. Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures amid ancient ruins of facts.

7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.

8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: "You can´t legislate stupidity."

9. The gauntlet is hereby thrown down.

10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn´t call, doesn´t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don´t you listen to the Song of Life.

11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.

12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species - including man - crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota April 30, 1999
Werner Herzog