Herzog Church: The Inherent Madness Of Culture
We continue our Werner Herzog retrospective with two bleak comedies (and one documentary short) about the de-humanizing effects of cultural institutions such as science, medicine, religion and politics, and how they can drive human beings to violence, madness and rebellion.
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8PM: TEN THOUSAND YEARS OLDER (2002)
Herzog chooses as his subject the Amondauas people of Brazil, who until 1981 had never had contact with modern civilization. The film opens with footage from that first tense encounter, then shows what happened just a few weeks later -- many of the people, who lacked the immunities to common viruses which most of us take for granted, succumbed to disease. Twenty years later, Herzog visits the (now immunized) survivors -- the elders, in tee-shirts and ball caps, who reminisce nostalgically about their old ways, and the younger generation, who are embarrassed to have "savages" for parents. It's a strange and dark and somehow fatalistic little film; in other words, classic Herzog.
8:15: WOYZECK (1979)
Based on an unfinished play by Georg Buchner, who died at age 23 before he could complete it, Woyzeck tells the story of a 19th Century German soldier whose fragility is put to the test by the abuse of doctors, commanding officers, and his unfaithful wife. Adapted into script by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski in the title role, in their third collaboration. The film is a study of a man finding himself alone in a society that's completely against him. Woyzeck is a sprawling, theatrical study of a man trying to gain control in a world that's completely against him. Filmed in the Czech Republic.
9:45PM: EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL (1970)
"I saw the whole film like a continuous nightmare in front of my eyes.”
Made in 1970, Even Dwarfs Started Small is very likely the strangest film Herzog has made so far in his rather unique career. The film is cast entirely with little people and it’s about as off the wall as you could imagine.
The film is set in an institution of some sort, where the inhabitants have recently overthrown whatever establishment was once in charge, much to the dismay of the one caretaker who seems to be there. As the inhabitants rebel against their oppressors, their antics become more and more over the top to the point where everyone and everything, including the local animal population, become participants, willing or otherwise.
Equal parts absurdist surrealism and dark satire, here Herzog uses dark imagery and a seemingly very enthusiastic cast to create a film that is wholly unique.
This is essentially a look at a rebellion against society that in turn becomes a series of manic set pieces rather than a traditional narrative film and it offers no shortage of stark imagery and thought provoking set pieces.
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