I watched Werner Herzog’s documentary film Grizzly Man on DVD last night. It’s a beautiful and moving film and I recommend it highly, at least to those who like beautiful and moving films. My good pal Pete Ashton told me on the oul Twitternets that I should also look out for Encounters at the End of the World (“Herzog in the desolate Antarctic. Bliss.”), so I guess I’ll be adding that to my Lovefilm list, too.
There are lots of reasons why I’m a big fan of Herzog. He’s a visionary filmmaker, a key figure in the German New Wave (one of my favourite cinematic periods) and something of a Renaissance man. More importantly, though, he’s as mad as a bald bear. This, you must remember, is a man who made a film (Fitzcarraldo) in which a 320-ton steamship was dragged up and over a Peruvian hill, sans special effects. Even James Cameron wouldn’t try doing that.
On another occasion, Herzog said that if a famously deadline-challenged friend and fellow filmmaker managed to complete his film on time, he’d eat his shoe. When the film (Errol Morris’s Gates of Heaven) premiered in 1978, Herzog delivered on his promise and publicly cooked, seasoned and ate his footwear. His shoe-chomping shenanigans were filmed and later featured in Les Blank’s appropriately titled documentary short, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe:
More recently, during an interview with Mark Kermode, Herzog was shot in the gut with an air rifle. Herzog seemed bemused by the event, but pressed on with the interview regardless. After displaying the wound to a somewhat astonished Kermode, Herzog tried to reassure the film critic by saying: “It was not a significant bullet.”
I bet James Cameron wouldn’t say that.