Herzog on Eisner, Avatar, the Spanish Inquisition y mas…
signandsight just published the translation of an interesting interview (first in Die Zeit) with German movie-maker Werner Herzog; below, the opening paras — you can read the whole thing here. In fact, my favorite bit comes later in the interview, so I’ll reproduce it here, out of context, for the hell of it:
“Herzog: I have absolutely no interest in psychology.
Interviewer: Why not?
Because I am convinced that self-analysis is one of the terrible mistakes of our current civilisation. Because it means shedding light onto every dark corner of our souls. But a house in which ever last corner is illuminated is uninhabitable. And people whose every last corner has been examined by psychoanalysis become uninhabitable people. I cannot cope with these people and I don’t wish to cope with these people. The catastrophe of psychoanalysis is on a par with the catastrophe of the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition wanted to shed light on every last corner of people’s beliefs. And they also wanted to dig out the Muslim elements which were still coursing through Spain. And psychoanalysis is just as bad.”
And now back to the beginning of the interview:
Talking to the lord of pain
Werner Herzog, jury president at this year’s Berlinale, told Katja Nicodemus about being shot, why “Avatar” ties his stomach in knots, and the Spanish Inquisition.
Die ZEIT: Werner Herzog, a few years ago in Los Angeles, you gave a TV interview during which you were shot at. For anyone watching this scene it seemed as if nothing could shake you.
Werner Herzog: It certainly surprised me at the time though. During the interview I heard an explosion and I assumed that the camera had exploded because it felt as if I’d been hit in the side by a kilo-sized chunk of glowing iron. But the camera was in tact. Then behind it at some distance I saw a man with a gun, ducking out of sight behind a veranda. He shot at me with an air rifle for the fun of it.
After a short break you then continued with the interview…
I was not injured badly. But the people from the BBC were shitting themselves. That was pretty funny.
Do you like living here in Los Angeles?
Yes. For me Los Angeles is the American city with most substance. Of course I don’t just mean the surface, the Hollywood glitz and glamour. But all the most important trends of the last century come from California: the collective dreams in cinemas round the world. The fact that homosexuals are recognised as an integral part of society. The computer technology. All the Internet innovations. And also idiocies like hippies and New Age. There are only two exceptions. The green movement is more of a Scandinavian thing. And Islamic fundamentalism does not come from California either.
You once said that the world only reveals itself to people on foot. Those days must be over now.
Los Angeles is a not a city you can walk in. You look suspicious. The police drive past you slowly and ask what you are doing. Only if you are walking a dog or jogging will you not draw attention to yourself. But I only walk if there is an existential reason for me to do so.
In 1974 you walked 700 kilometres from Munich to Paris. Either out of megalomania or affection or both, you wanted to prevent the badly ailing film historian Lotte Eisner from dying.
I didn’t feel she should be allowed to die. We still needed her. Because people still had so many reservations about German cinema, because the reputation of Nazi barbarity still clung to us. Lotte Eisner had written books about F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang, she was a Jewish emigre and the chief archivist of the Cinematheque Francaise. She had the authority to give us legitimacy. And she had achieved something critically important with her commitment to New German Cinema in the 60s and 70s . She was also something of a mentor to me. For example she send a copy of my first film “Lebenszeichen” to Fritz Lang, who had said that no more films would ever come out of Germany.