Will Self on Werner Herzog

British writer reflects on the charismatic Bavarian director
Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski, 'My Best Friend'Will Self names the top four Werner Herzog moments, and shares his thoughts on the director and his work:
With such a view of national character, it’s no surprise that Herzog’s view of the creative process is equally muscular. With his astonishing work rate, I asked him how he felt about the films he had completed. “They are like burglars in the night who all of a sudden raid your home — you’ve got to get them out! Or rather, you open the door to let one guest in, and suddenly 85 people are swarming all over you.” When the unwanted guests burst in, I asked him, did he know if they were feature films or documentaries or, indeed, operas — which he has been known to direct — or books — which he has been known to write (he has a new one out, about Fitzcarraldo, this summer)? “Only when I wrestle with them, and I feel their skin and sniff their scent, do I make a distinction.”

So, there’s Herzog: no tyrant on the set, but only a put-upon host, wrestling with fruitful creative demons. No chronic peripatetic — “I don’t know how I ended up making films all over the world, it is bizarre to me!” — but only a joyful traveller, who, rather than seeing himself as a citizen of the world, told me he remains “completely Bavarian”. And when I asked him what, for him, defined being Bavarian, he replied: “Take a film like Fitzcarraldo. Besides me, only King Ludwig of Bavaria could have made that film.”

I managed to restrain myself from pointing out that the epithet most commonly applied to this patron of Wagner was “mad”. [Read More]

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