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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...

LENZ

Germany/Switzerland, 2006
With a sweeping grandeur and the elemental passion and curiosity we've come to associate with Werner Herzog, director Thomas Imbach's Lenz creates an unconventional portrait of a tortured visionary c… More »

WILD BLUE YONDER, THE

Germany, France, UK, 2005
“Astronauts lost in space, the secret Roswell object re-examined, an alien who tells us all about his home planet - the Wild Blue Yonder - where the atmosphere is composed of liquid helium and the … More »

RESCUE DAWN

USA, 2006
“Packs a wrenching emotional punch.” - Variety Rescue Dawn is Werner Herzog's second homage to German born, US Air Force pilot Dieter Dengler who was shot down during the Vietnam War and forced … More »

MISTER LONELY

UK/France/Ireland/USA, 2006
“I started dreaming about flying nuns falling out of airplanes and praying the whole way down and surviving. Then I started to fixate upon specific images and characters. One of them was the idea o… More »

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD

USA, 2007
“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 »

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