The Forbidding World of Herzog

Werner Herzog has traveled to the outposts of the world seeking the hidden and highly mysterious, reveling in the strangeness of the “forbidding world”. He fills his frames with mischievous and murderous landscapes: the horizontal limbs and torsos of the Sahara Desert in Fata Morgana (1971), a Hothian ice planet with its own nomad culture in Encounters at the End of the World (2007); and maintains the sense of strange encounters by taking the point of view of an alien, newly arrived on our planet, awed and perplexed by the surroundings and humanoids he meets. The alien is enthralled with mirages in Fata Morgana, capturing the reflections or refractions bounced into one environment from somewhere else miles away through temperature transference, perhaps reflected multiple times to arrive in the filmed location. The “heated strata of air that function like a mirror” puts a science to ghosts, ghosts manufactured by a planetary machine.

As in Grizzly Man (2005) and Lessons of Darkness (1992), the alien seeks transient artifacts, wanderers, the lost, experimental juxtapositions, and harsh environments threatening untimely death. He braves both extreme elements and dialogues with potentially unhinged subjects whom he abstains from judging. The world feels too small in his confident body of work, limited by physics. If Herzog had the means for interstellar travel he’d be Doctor Who. No, the Silver Surfer, due to his morose, doomed nature.