Last modified on 28 March 2014, at 01:51

Werner Herzog

Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.

Werner Herzog (born Werner Stipetic on 5 September 1942) is a German screenwriter, film director, actor and opera director.


  • You are all wrong.
    • Responding to booing crowds at the Berlin Film Festival, who disapproved of his Lessons of Darkness (1992).
  • Well they are very frightening for me because their stupidity is so flat. You look into the eyes of a chicken and you lose yourself in a completely flat, frightening stupidity. They are like a great metaphor for me... I kind of love chicken, but they frighten me more than any other animal.
    • About chickens, on the Signs of Life (1968) DVD audio commentary (2005).
  • I am so used to plunging into the unknown that any other surroundings and form of existence strike me as exotic and unsuitable for human beings.
    • 31 May 1981 diary entry (pg. 248 of Herzog's book Conquest of the Useless)

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)Edit

  • If you switch on television it's just ridiculous and its destructive. It kills us. And talk shows will kill us. They kill our language. So we have to declare holy war against what we see every single day on television. Commercials and — I think there should be real war against commercials, real war against talk shows, real war against "Bonanza" and "Rawhide", or all these things.
  • If you want to do a film, steal a camera, steal raw stock, sneak into a lab and do it!
  • As you see [filmmaking] makes me into a clown. And that happens to everyone — just look at Orson Welles or look at even people like Truffaut. They have become clowns.

Minnesota declaration (1999)Edit

"Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema", Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (30 April 1999)
  • By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.
  • 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.
  • Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.
  • 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.
  • Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures amid ancient ruins of facts.
  • Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.
  • 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."
  • We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.
  • 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.

Herzog on Herzog (2002)Edit

If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams and I don't want to live like that: I live my life or I end my life with this project.
  • I shouldn't make movies anymore. I should go to a lunatic asylum.
  • If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams and I don't want to live like that: I live my life or I end my life with this project.
    • Said while making Fitzcarraldo
  • It is my duty because this might be the inner chronicle of what we are, and we have to articulate ourselves. Otherwise we would be cows in the field.
  • I like to direct landscapes just as I like to direct actors and animals.
  • The kinds of landscape I try to find in my films...exist only in our dreams. For me a true landscape is not just a representation of a desert or a forest. It shows an inner state of mind, literally inner landscapes, and it is the human soul that is visible through the landscapes presented in my films.
  • Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs.
  • Film is not analysis, it is the agitation of mind; cinema comes from the country fair and the circus, not from art and academicism.
  • Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.
  • Coincidences always happen if you keep your mind open, while storyboards remain the instruments of cowards who do not trust in their own imagination and who are slaves of a matrix... If you get used to planning your shots based solely on aesthetics, you are never that far from kitsch.
  • Your film is like your children. You might want a child with certain qualities, but you are never going to get the exact specification right. The film has a privilege to live its own life and develop its own character. To suppress this is dangerous. It is an approach that works the other way too: sometimes the footage has amazing qualities that you did not expect.
  • We comprehend... that nuclear power is a real danger for mankind, that over-crowding of the planet is the greatest danger of all. We have understood that the destruction of the environment is another enormous danger. But I truly believe that the lack of adequate imagery is a danger of the same magnitude. It is as serious a defect as being without memory. What have we done to our images? What have we done to our embarrassed landscapes? I have said this before and will repeat it again as long as I am able to talk: if we do not develop adequate images we will die out like dinosaurs.
  • You can fight a rumour only with an even wilder rumour.
  • I am not an artist and never have been. Rather I am like a craftsman and feel very close to the mediaeval artisans who produced their work anonymously and who, along with their apprentices, had a true feeling for the physical materials they were working with.
  • I have never been one of those who cares about happiness. Happiness is a strange notion. I am just not made for it. It has never been a goal of mine; I do not think in those terms.
  • I am someone who takes everything very literally. I simply do not understand irony, a defect I have had ever since I was able to think independently.
  • May I propose a Herzog dictum? those who read own the world, and those who watch television lose it.
  • It is my firm belief, and I say this as a dictum, that all these tools now at our disposal, these things part of of this explosive evolution of means of communication, mean we are now heading for an era of solitude. Along with this rapid growth of forms of communication at our disposal— be it fax, phone, email, internet or whatever— human solitude will increase in direct proportion.
  • To me, adventure is a concept that applies only to those men and women of earlier historical times, like the mediaeval knights who travelled into the unknown. The concept has degenerated constantly since then... I absolutely loathe adventurers, and I particularly hate this old pseudo-adventurism where the mountain climb becomes about confronting the extremes of humanity.
  • If you truly love film, I think the healthiest thing to do is not read books on the subject. I prefer the glossy film magazines with their big colour photos and gossip columns, or the National Enquirer. Such vulgarity is healthy and safe.

On Klaus KinskiEdit

  • People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other's murder.
  • Incredible. I didn't know how to calm him down, and then I had an inspiration. I went to my hut, where, for months I had hidden a piece of chocolate. We would almost have killed one another for something like that. I went back to him, going right into his face and ate the chocolate. All of a sudden he was quiet. This was utterly beyond him.
  • Often he was a joy, and you know, he was one of the few people I ever learned anything from.

Quotes about HerzogEdit

  • His speech is clumsy, with a toadlike indolence, long winded, pedantic, choppy. The words tumble from his mouth in sentence fragments, which he holds back as much as possible, as if they were earning interest. It takes forever and a day for him to push out a clump of hardened brain snot. Then he writhes in painful ecstasy, as if he had sugar on his rotten teeth. A very slow blab machine. An obsolete model with a non-working switch — it can't be turned off unless you cut off the electric power altogether. So I'd have to smash him in the kisser. No, I'd have to knock him unconscious. But even if he were unconscious he'd keep talking. Even if his vocal cords were sliced through, he'd keep talking like a ventriloquist. Even if his throat were cut and his head were chopped off, speech balloons would still dangle from his mouth like gases emitted by internal decay.
    • Klaus Kinski, in Kinski Uncut : The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1996), p. 213
  • He should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No — panther claws should rip open his throat — that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes and gobble up his balls and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It's no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me.
    • Klaus Kinski, in Kinski Uncut : The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1996), p. 220-21
  • Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep. His so-called "talent" consists of nothing but tormenting helpless creatures and, if necessary, torturing them to death or simply murdering them. He doesn't care about anyone or anything except his career as a so-called filmmaker. Driven by a pathological addiction to sensationalism, he creates the most sensless difficulties and dangers, risking other people's safety and even their lives — just so he can eventually say that he, Herzog, has beaten seemingly unbeatable odds. For his movies he hires retards and amateurs whom he can push around (and alledgedly hypnotize!), and he pays them starvation wages or zilch. He also uses freaks and cripples of every conceivable size and shape, merely to look interesting. He doesn't have the foggiest inkling of how to make movies. He doesn't even try to direct the actors anymore. Long ago, when I ordered him to keep his trap shut, he gave up asking me whether I'm willing to carry out his stupid and boring ideas.
    • Klaus Kinski, in Kinski Uncut : The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1996), p. 222
  • [Kinski and Herzog] were both ridiculous, flaming egomaniacs of only slightly different stripes — Kinski’s ugliness was flailing, external; a flash fire that burned itself, and himself, out. Herzog’s rage was of the passive-aggressive, festering sort, and therefore more dangerous... Herzog was an inverted sociopath; Kinski threw loud vocal fits, repressing nothing. Who was more sick? Werner Herzog was the visual version of Kinski’s extremity. Kinski exploited hearts; Herzog exploited landscapes and native peoples.
    • Cintra Wilson, "Devoured by Demons", Slate, April 22, 2004

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