December 26, 2012


A newsman stated that due to a decreasing birth rate, the German race would completely disappear in one hundred years.

“That’s untrue,” Herzog declared. “The German race will disappear due to obesity and boredom.”
Alan Greenberg’s Every Night the Trees Disappear: Werner Herzog and the Making of Heart of Glass is a making-of book unlike most others, and not only because Heart of Glass is a film unlike etc (famously, infamously, Herzog hypnotised the actors). This is a making-of book that is entirely free of such typical themes as studio interference, hovering producers and money worries. It is concerned entirely with Herzog’s pursuit of his ideas and visions – to the extent that, 35 years on in an afterword, Herzog thinks that he comes across in the book as “didactic and dictatorial”, as the production, in his memory, had more coherence and organisation about it.

In the mid-70s, Herzog’s fame was growing in the United States and the Herzog persona was developing. What would fame do? Four decades on, he seems an avuncular, less driven, less singular figure – not as strange, and able to appear, for example, as the Hollywood villain in Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher movie (one hopes that decision was partly a sly reference to this). We also know Herzog now as a quotable figure, a producer of epigrams. They are scattered through his conversations here, too (“Close ups are a personal violation of the actor” etc). And:
“People should look straight at a film,” he suggested. “That’s the only way to see one. Film is not the art of scholars but illiterates. And film culture is not analysis; it is agitation of the mind. Movies come from the country fair and circus, not from art and academicism.”