Sunday, June 09, 2019
Matthew Gandy on Herzog from German Romanticism to existentialism.
Though Herzog’s cinematic oeuvre cannot be reduced to the German romantic tradition there is nonetheless a clear resonance between his cinema and the drive towards new forms of self-expression that gathered momentum in German art and literature from the eighteenth century onwards: the landscapes of emotion explored by Hölderlin, for example, are suggestive of a “poetic truth” that Herzog has sought to capture in his cinema. Similarly, Herzog’s disavowal of what he terms the “accountant’s truth” finds echoes with the idea of truth as “essence” developed by Martin Heidegger. Herzog shares with Heidegger a rejection of naïve forms of empiricism or “actuality” and the emphasis on truth as a form of revealing or manifestation of “primordial essence”. Heidegger draws a contrast, for example, between the “imperishable and eternal” characteristics of metaphysical truth and the “transitoriness and fragility that belongs to man’s essence”. There are connections here between Herzog’s emphasis on the insignificance of human life in the face of nature and the development of existentialism in the writings of not only Heidegger but also Camus. In The Myth of Sisyphus, for example, Camus reflects on absurdity, mortality, and the illusion of freedom: like Herzog he is drawn to those figures who rail against the universe.
From A Companion to Werner Herzog, p. 541.
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