Cli-Fi: Werner Herzog Journeys Into the Inferno

As always, the infamous German auteur dives beneath the surface of reality, this time journeying like Verne into our overheating Earth. From the violent to the sacred, our planet’s volcanoes, whose relentless eruptions once kickstarted the worst extinction event in history, known as The Great Dying, explode beneath the scope of Herzog’s analysis. Don’t miss it:

Netflix is proud to present the trailer and poster premiere of Werner Herzog’s INTO THE INFERNO – which heads just where its title suggests: into the red-hot magma-filled craters of some of the world’s most active and astonishing volcanoes, taking the filmmaker on one of the most extreme tours of his long career. From North Korea to Ethiopia to Iceland to the Vanuatu Archipelago, humans have created narratives to make sense of volcanoes; as stated by Herzog, “volcanoes could not care less what we are doing up here.” Into the Inferno teams Herzog with esteemed volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer to offer not only an in-depth exploration of volcanoes across the globe but also an examination of the belief systems that human beings have created around the fiery phenomena. After premiering to acclaim at Telluride and at the Toronto Film Festival, the movie will open in New York and Los Angeles theaters and launch globally on Netflix on October 28.

Herzog and Oppenheimer first met ten years ago on the slopes of the Mount Erebus volcano in Antarctica during the filming of Encounters at the End of the World. Their newest film never stops moving, never stops seeking. We see Oppenheimer in Indonesia at Lake Toba, which 74,000 years ago was the site of one of the most massive eruptions known to man. Oppenheimer and Herzog travel to Mount Sinabung, where they narrowly escape a deadly eruption, and then visit Mount Merapi on Java, one of Indonesia’s most sacred volcanoes. They travel to the hottest desert on earth in Ethiopia, to Iceland, and perhaps most amazingly to the center of North Korea. Throughout, they investigate the wildly imaginative and wildly diverse stories that people have told about the presence and meaning of volcanoes. There is Mount Paektu in North Korea, for example, venerated by the current regime as a birthplace of the Korean nation and the revolution. There is the Codex Regius, Iceland’s most precious possession, an ancient text that tells of a tenth-century volcanic eruption. Into the Inferno is vintage Herzog, offering extraordinary locales, outré characters, improbable stories and, through it all, a chance to go deep inside a mesmerizing subject and emerge with new understanding.


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Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog Believes Animation is More Convincing in Virtual Reality

Legendary director and provocateur Werner Herzog has always been living in virtual reality — except when he’s travelled on foot.

That’s because the influential auteur, who has directed well over 50 fiction and non-fiction films and shorts that have redefined cinema as we know it — “Even his failures are spectacular,” Roger Ebert once said — believes humans evolved from experiencing firsthand what he nevertheless considers to be our collectively ambiguous reality, which instead can feel like virtual reality. Not that his favored cinema, or even VR’s sometimes “claustrophobic” technology, aren’t throwing much of those experiential assumptions into critical relief.

“Understanding of space is probably one of the things that cinema can really do quite well,” Herzog explained in a back-and-forth with neuroscientist Patrick House, recently published in The New Yorker. But VR is “a form of space that we haven’t experienced yet. It is a form of space that occurs in our nightmares.”

Herzog admitted that he got tired of what currently passes for VR “fairly quickly,” he said. “What was more convincing was animated films,” he added. “Digitally created landscapes and events made a better impression on me.”

Nevertheless, Herzog believes that VR is a singular experience with the potential to become more than just “an extension of cinema or 3-D cinema or video games. It is something new, different, and not experienced yet.”

That is because VR upsets the normal structures and relations of cinema, in that its technological disruption supersedes the artistic process. According to Herzog, human culture has traditionally dreamt up its narratives first, then sought out the means of production to materialize them.

“You have the content first, and then the technology follows suit,” he told House. “In this case, we do have a technology, but we don’t have any clear idea how to fill it with content.”

As such, we’re left seeking experiences that can best be expressed in virtual reality, which was the case with Herzog’s 2010 documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, analyzing some of Earth’s earliest paintings on the walls of France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave. Once skeptical of 3-D, Herzog felt that “3-D was necessary for that film because paintings, thirty-two thousand years back in time, were not on flat walls in the cave but on wildly undulating ones.”

That said, Herzog is not exactly in love with technological disruption. His next documentary, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, premiering this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, seems sanguine about the Internet’s potential to bring humanity together in technocratic utopia. He’s particularly critical of video games.

“I don’t see anyone who is addicted to films, but I do see young people addicted to video games,” Herzog said. “It is so bad that now rehab centers have started.”

“Cinema is over when the film is over, the credits are over, and the doors open and you are pushed out into the street and it’s still day out there,” he added, noting earlier in the conversation that cinema is also “the most intense way to express our inner condition.”

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