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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WERNER HERZOG ON ICE

waterfall road



The roads are clear by now. The big dump trucks with the blade on the front drive 30-40 mph throwing the snow off to the side in a big spray. The big motorgrader pushes it to the side and leaves a mound to break through or shovel away. When the dumptruck sprays the snow out of the road there isn't such a big mound along he sides. I understand the need for paved roads so the Hwy Dept can run the dumptrucks with the blade several times to one time by the motorgrader. Today the paved part was largely dry. The gravel road coming up the mountain had melted into slushy ice and mud, both of them slicker than ice. I had to give it some pedal to keep going. It was another situation like busting through the drift that you don't stop, keep on keepin on. When you stop, that's it. Back down the mountain and start again. I slung mud all over the sides of the car. It made a good commercial for a paved road.



Saw a film yesterday by German director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Aguirre the Wrath of God), a man with a mind all his own. This was in English, ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, a documentary type film of Antarctica. Much underwater footage below and through tunnels in the icebergs, watching the seals swim underwater like soft torpedoes and hearing their electronic seeming sounds. On the surface, almost nothing can live, but in the water life forms are everywhere, strange looking critters. A cell biologist working at the American base there was saying the creatures he sees in the telescope are frightening monsters. If we were the same size as them, we would not have a chance. He said it was such a violent world he believed the first sea creatures to walk onto land were getting away from that world of Xtreme violence. I think they brought some of it with them.



Also much footage above sea level, flights over interior landscapes of jagged mountains and snow, smooth mountains and snow, all of it snow. Great thing to see on the coldest day of the year. Beautiful landscape. Herzog has a powerful mind that thinks in big themes. Here, he presented the land of the South Pole. Took us to the South Pole by helicopter showing the mountains and snow. It was not only fascinating to see this little known landscape as something of amazing beauty, but it had another side, Herzog's twist, utter desolation, more desolate than desert. It is a place where the compass needle goes vertical.



He has a 1995 film, LESSONS OF DARKNESS, another documentary of the desert of Kuwait after the Iraqi retreat when they set oil wells on fire, the desert made even more desolate by the oil, by burned out truck bodies, skeletal remains of war's machinery blasted by US tanks and bombs from the sky. It was so desolate, it surely peaked Herzog's artistic fascination with the desolate. I can't help but think he is picturing his own deep feeling of desolation through his artistic interpretation of what we call reality. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a legitimate artistic vision. It's a theme that runs through all his films I've seen. It's the desolation that stands out, but it is balanced by beauty beyond measure and much light. The films are in that way a vision of duality in the yin-yang, the dance of opposites, the creation of illusion. Herzog is a deep thinker, a post-war European intellectual, something of an Existentialist. Yet he never goes over our heads without taking us with him.



Herzog's beauty of desolation seems to me a way of making something on the order of an abstract canvas with images moving through time. Compositions of shapes and colors in every scene make abstract images to the artist's eye. Herzog plays on many levels visually as well as mentally and emotionally. His films are strong emotional experiences. The horror of the desolate is interwoven with visual beauty only available to the eye that can see past the horror and find abstract compositions everywhere until it becomes art and there is no judgment. At first, it's shocking, maddening, disheartening, and it keeps on and keeps on, then the beauty in it takes over and it becomes beautiful. Every time I see a film of Herzog's, my respect grows. I don't want to see them one after the other. I like to drop one in from time to time to look at and experience a work of abstract art in motion for a couple hours.



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