February 20, 2016

Mountains

Scream of Stone (Werner Herzog, 1991). This plodding dramatic feature about competitive mountain climbers is as bad as they say – Herzog himself disowns it and blames a poor script – and there’s little to mark it as distinctively Herzogian beyond an odd appearance by Brad Dourif as a man driven Aguirre-mad by the mountains and a couple of sightings of a prophetic Indian. Even the supposedly evil mountain lacks the awe and terror that mountains have in something like Nosferatu. But maybe there are personal traces, hiding in plain sight: can we see a version of Herzog in Donald Sutherland’s manic, frustrated sports director who tries to control the uncontrollable? As an epic of futility about the conquest of the useless, it may have felt autobiographical. It’s partly about pointless heroism but it’s also about the film business and the art of the deals.