A quick blog for Little White Lies
This week, director Dieter Kosslick announced that Werner Herzog, the so-called Godfather of German New Wave cinema, will be the President of the Jury at the 60th Berlinale in February next year.
Not only will the 2010 festival mark the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the German capital, but it is also thirty one years since Herzog himself won the Silver Bear for best first film with his World War II feature film Signs of Life.
From Silver Bear to Grizzly Man
Since that first full length feature film, Herzog has written, directed and starred in over fifty films, documentaries and operas including Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Nosferatu the Vampyr, Fitzcarraldo, The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner and My Best Fiend, which explores the notoriously tumultuous relationship between Herzog and his leading man Klaus Kinski.
A Man of Myth
Herzog is arguably one of cinema’s most apocryphal figures, and the relationship with Klaus Kinski is typically littered with shocking and controversial stories. Did Herzog force Kinski to act at gun point? Probably not. Did Kinski try to pay a local tribes person to kill Herzog? Perhaps. Did Kinski shoot into a hut of extras while Herzog filmed Aguirre, the Wrath of God? Apparently.
It is certainly true that during an interview with Mark Kermode, Herzog got shot with an air rifle by an unknown marksman (he carried on with the interview, claiming the wound was nothing significant), that Ian Curtis, lead singer in Joy Division, watched Herzog’s 1977 film Stroszek before committing suicide and that during the filming of Fitzcarraldo Herzog really did haul a 320 ton steamship over a hill without use of special effects.
Doing It For Real
His obsession with authenticity and verisimilitude has made Herzog a highly respected if eccentric director, whose influence can be seen in the work of fellow New Wavers German Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a new generation of film makers like Harmony Korine and Larry Clark as well as Hollywood blockbusters like Francis Ford Coppolla who is said of his 1797 film Apocalypse Now; “Aguirre, with its incredible imagery, was a very strong influence. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it.”
The Berlinale, or Berlin International Film Festival was founded in 1951 and is considered one of the industry’s most important and well attended annual events. The decision to elect Herzog, who has shown several films at the festival over his fifty year career, as President will be popular with fans of the great Auteur, including the Director of the festival, Dieter Kosslick.
“Werner Herzog’s films convey the artistic strength of cinema,” said Kosslick. “We are very pleased to have this outstanding director as Jury President for the 60th anniversary of the festival.”
But will he arrive at the festival wielding a gun and pulling a 320 tonne steamship? We’ll just have to wait and see.