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LESSONS OF DARKNESS

Germany, 1992 (MIFF 1993, Documentaries)

Director: Werner Herzog

Lessons of Darkness marks a welcome return to form for German director Werner Herzog, once a regularly seen figure on the festival circuit, now noted mainly for his absence. After a decade of large-scale international features, Herzog returns to the intimate and distinctively personal style of his earliest works, to essay a recurring theme of his career — the instinctive self-destructiveness of humankind and modern civilisation's inexorable lurch towards chaos.

Within the conceit of a science-fiction movie, Herzog visits another planet in which life has been wiped out by cataclysmic fires and destruction. The setting is in fact the deserts of Kuwait in the aftermath of the Gulf War, where burning oilwells block the sun's rays and spewing fountains of crude oil have created solid-black craters on the sandy terrain. Viewed mainly from the air, the shots of 'this uninhabitable planet' are as awesome as they are grandiose, evoking both the poetry of sci-fi and the accuracy of a clinical observation.

Herzog eschews the standard conventions (and cliches) of journalistic enquiry, and limits himself to only two 'live' interviews - both of which poignantly suggest the inadequacy of language for the victims of terror. Punctuated by intertitles, sparse commentary (spoken by Herzog) and an occasionally portentous overlay of music (Mahler, Verdi and predictably, Wagner), the strength of Lessons of Darkness resides in its conception and seamless editing of image and music. Here, Herzog's existentialist quest finds the ideal subject, and execution.

See also...

MY BEST FRIEND

My Best Fiend is an alarming documentary about the love-hate relationship between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. The film deals with the deep trust between the director and actor and their ... More »

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS

Cinematic legend Werner Herzog presents an astonishing glimpse of our prehistoric forebears. ... Kudos to Herzog (Encounters at the End of the World, MIFF 2008; Grizzly Man) for achieving the ... More »

INTO THE ABYSS

“A disquieting, heartbreaking look at American crime and punishment.” - Hollywood Reporter ... In 2001 two young Texan men were convicted of a horrific triple murder. One received a life ... More »

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD

“Should render contrite all who say there is nothing left for movies to show us that we haven't seen before.” - Variety ... One thousand men and women live together in unbelievably close quarters ... More »

Lessons of Darkness

First screened to rapt audiences at MIFF 1993, Lessons Of Darkness is Herzog's meditation on the apocalyptic aftermath of the Guff War. Tragedy and beauty are blended in aerial photography that ... More »

Huie’s Sermon

Werner Herzog claims to have had a divine vision as a child, which may partially explain his fascination with mysticism and preachers. Huie's Sermon was shot in the US while Herzog was preparing to ... More »

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