Werner Herzog in conversation with Errol Morris


WERNER HERZOG: Walking out of one of your films, I always had the feeling-the sense that I’ve seen a movie, that I’ve seen something equivalent to a feature film. That’s very much the feeling of the feature film Vernon, Florida or even the film with McNamara-The Fog of War. Even there I have the feeling I’ve seen a feature, a narrative feature film with an inventive narrative structure and with a sort of ambience created that you only normally create in a feature film, in an inventive, fictionalized film.
The new film that I saw, Standard Operating Procedure, feels as if you had completely invented characters, and yet they are not. We know the photos, and we know the events and we know the dramas behind it. And yet I always walk out feeling that I have seen a feature film, a fiction film.

ERROL MORRIS: Yeah. The intention is to put the audience in some kind of odd reality. [To moderator] Werner certainly shares this. It’s the perverse element in filmmaking. Werner in his “Minnesota Manifesto” starts talking about ecstatic truth. I have no idea what he’s talking about.
But what I do understand in his films is a kind of ecstatic absurdity, things that make you question the nature of reality, of the universe in which we live. We think we understand the world around us. We look at a Herzog film, and we think twice. And I always, always have revered that element. Ecstatic absurdity: it’s the confrontation with meaninglessness.
I was talking with Ron Rosenbaum, a friend of mine, who had just finished a book on Shakespeare. We were talking about the meaning of meaninglessness. Is there such a thing? And I would say: yes. Werner’s work could be considered an extended essay on the meaning of meaninglessness.

WERNER HERZOG: Thank you, yes. It feels good to hear that. [Laughter]
But, of course, I’m suspicious about the sources. Where does this come from, this textualizing of Shakespeare and poetry? And I think a part of the cinema verité, we have discarded it. Yes, that’s enough. We have hit enough at it, and it’s actually cinema verité, the answer of the ’60s, and that’s OK. Yes, we have buried it for good, I hope.
But now what is emerging, and we should really go and lower our heads in charge against this kind of structure and this postmodernist, poststructuralist sort of film studies in aesthetics. You find it as an all-pervading abomination speaking about literature, speaking about cinema. And I think there’s a new enemy out there that we should really start to tackle more violently and more viciously. I mean with sucker punches wherever we can do it.


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