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Overview for Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog


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Also Known As: Werner Stipetic Died:
Born: September 5, 1942 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Germany Profession: Director ... director producer screenwriter actor parking lot attendant dock worker welder


lf War on Kuwait. But even in documentaries, Herzog was not without controversy, as he was expelled from Kuwait by the Amirs for his depiction of the men and women who fought the oil well fires set by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. By this time, Herzog had ventured into directed opera, surprising for someone who claimed that he refused to listen to any music for almost a decade as a child after refusing to sing in front of class. Over the years, he directed such noted operas as "Doktor Faustus" (1986), "Giovanna d'Arco" (1989), "The Flying Dutchman" (1993) and Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (1999). Turning back to documentaries, he filmed "Little Dieter Needs to Fly" (1997), a look at German-American Navy pilot Dieter Dengler, who was shot down during Vietnam and sent to a POW camp where he suffered torture and starvation before making a brave successful escape through the perilous jungles.

For his next film, the documentary "My Best Fiend" (1999), Herzog explored the chaotic life and career of his old friend, Klaus Kinski, who once called the director a "blowhard" and a "sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep." In rather blasé fashion, Herzog recounted the tumultuous professional and personal relationship that resulted in nasty on-set encounters and various death threats, including serious consideration by Herzog to firebomb Kinski's house. "My Best Fiend" was a hit as it made the festival rounds, including Cannes, Telluride and the Chicago International Film Festival. Herzog returned to fictional narrative with "Invincible" (2002), starring Tim Roth as the sinister owner of the Palace of the Occult in Weirmar Berlin, where a former blacksmith from Poland (Jouko Ahola) arrives to perform as a strongman. As anti-Semitism spreads and the Nazis increase their power, the strongman, plagued by nightmares, returns to Poland convinced he has been commanded by God to warn fellow Jews of the impending danger. Blending fact and fiction, Herzog eschewed a melodramatic handling of relations between Nazis and Jews and instead favored a slow and hauntingly stylized tone. In casting untrained actor Jouko Ahola as the kind-hearted, but naïve strongman, Herzog added goodness and optimism into his film, a rare feat for the typically dark and complicated director.

In his next documentary, "Wheel of Time" (2003), Herzog observed the creation of the Kalachakra Sand Mandala, or wheel of time, a collage of images representing the stages of Buddhist enlightenment. For the first eight of 12 days, Buddhist monks make the wheel from sand ground of white stone and mixed with opaque water colors. The last four days are spent initiating students and ends with the Dalai Lama thanking the 722 deities for participating, followed by sweeping away the sands. Herzog was invited by the monks to film the ritual, but he initially wanted to decline because his knowledge of Buddhism was thin at best. He eventually accepted and created a film with beautiful images, including the opening scenes of teeming crowds in saffron robes roaming the streets of Bodh Gaya, the town where Buddha sat under a tree and became enlightened, at the start of the initiation. The film proved to be another foray into gentler, more calming waters for the typically maniacal Herzog.

With "White Diamond" (2004), a documentary about airship engineer Dr. Graham Dorrington, who embarks on a trip to the Kaieteur Falls in Guyana to fly his helium-filled balloon above the trees, Herzog explored one man's unflinching will to conquer nature. Though not nearly as crazed as Kinski, Dorrington provided an element of lunacy to the effort, a common denominator in many of Herzog's films. Lurking death also factored in: 12 years prior to Dorrington's expedition, friend Dieter Plage plummeted to his death in a similar experiment. For "Grizzly Man" (2005), Herzog again ventured into the wilds to follow the path of a half-crazed man hell-bent on penetrating nature. The subject this time was Timothy Treadwell, a self-avowed grizzly bear activist who went to Katmai National Park & Preserve every summer to live with the Alaskan brown bear. Treadwell brought a camera to the refuge and documented himself over the course of five summers, usually turning the camera on himself and as his "bear friends" as he hiked through the woods.

A former alcoholic and drug user, Treadwell ultimately found his own salvation in trying to save the relatively well-protected bears that needed no protection. The activist met his ultimate fate when he stayed in the wild later than usual and encountered an old, hungry rogue bear that killed and ate Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard; an event that was captured while his camera was running with the lens cap on so that only audio of the grizzly attack could be heard. Herzog kept the sound of the attack to himself - the audience was only allowed to watch the director listening to the recording through headphones. Even the sometimes twisted Herzog knew immediately that Treadwell and Huguenard's horrific demise was to be kept private. With over 70 hours of Treadwell's footage at his disposal, Herzog conducted his own after-the-fact interviews to create a probing and entertaining look at a man at war with nature, human civilization and himself. Herzog ventured back to feature films with the experimental sci-fi disaster film, "The Wild Blue Yonder" (2005), which starred Brad Dourif as an extraterrestrial from a water planet who returns to Earth only to find the planet uninhabitable.

In January 2006, Herzog made a bit of news when actor Joaquin Ph nix overturned his car on Sunset Boulevard close to where the director lived. Herzog assisted the actor from his vehicle, who emerged relatively unscathed. A few days later, the director was giving an outdoor interview with Mark Kermode from the BBC, when Herzog was shot with an air rifle by an unknown assailant. Though initially shocked, Herzog quickly shrugged off the attack, declining Kermode's offer to call the police to hunt down his attacker. Later, Herzog displayed a bloodied abrasion slightly north of his groin and told an astonished Kermode that "it is not a significant bullet." Meanwhile, he directed "Rescue Dawn" (2006), a fictional account of Deiter Dengler's heroics starring Christian Bale, who was put through an ordeal almost similar as that faced by the downed pilot. He next helmed the documentary "Encounters at the End of the World" (2007), which brought audiences to McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica, where he filmed some of the most exhilarating landscapes of this remote section of Earth. Herzog next directed the off-kilter Nicolas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009), a not-very-faithful remake of "Bad Lieutenant" (1992), starring Harvey Keitel.bout a Brazilian entrepreneur (Kinski) who g s mad while running a 19th century African plantation did not disappoint with its behind-the-scenes action. With their personal conflict reaching full fruition, Herzog and Kinski battled daily, with the actor going to great lengths to disrupt production with his volcanic outbursts. Kinski's torrent of abuse projected at cinematographer Thomas Mauch led the latter to walk off the project, forcing Herzog to find a replacement. But despite the lack of enthusiasm from audiences, critics were on the whole fairly pleased with the results. Most significantly, Kinski died four years after making the film, which marked the end to one of the most storied, volatile and creatively satisfying collaborations in cinema history.

After "Cobra Verde," Herzog settled into making mostly documentaries, while occasionally returning to narrative films. After making "Ech s of a Somber Empire" (1990), which chronicled the bizarre and increasingly paranoid last years of Jean-Bédel Bokassa's military rule of the Central African Republic, Herzog made "Lessons of Darkness" (Discovery Channel, 1992), a look at the environmental impact of the 1991 Gu

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