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Date of birth
5 September 1942, Munich, Germany
Werner Herzog (September 5, 1942, Munich, Germany)
Selected filmography of
One of the most influential filmmakers in New German Cinema and one of the most extreme personalities in film, Werner Herzog quickly gained recognition not only for creating some of the most fantastic narratives in the Film history, but for pushing himself and his crew to absurd and unprecedented lengths, again and again, in order to achieve the effects he demanded.
Born Werner Stipetic in Munich on September 5, 1942, Herzog came of age in Sachrang, Bavaria, amid extreme poverty and destitution.
After Herzog turned seventeen, a German film producer optioned one of his screenplays, then promptly destroyed the contract when he discovered the author’s age.
Circa 1962, 20-year-old Herzog enrolled in the University of Munich as a history and literature student, and produced his first motion picture, the twelve minute Herakles, his second short Game in the Sand, and his third, the pacifist tract The Unprecedented Defense of Fortress Deutschkreuz.
In 1963, he established his own production banner, Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, to give him complete autonomy over all of his projects.
He won a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh in 1965 or ’66, and immigrated to the States, where he held down a job at a television station, purportedly shot films for NASA.
He returned to Deutschland in 1967, where he won the top prize at the Oberhausen Film Festival for his short Last Words, then migrated to the Greek islands to shoot his premier feature, Signs of Life (1968), a story about a stricken German infantryman (Peter Brogle) who lapses into unbridled insanity.
The film drew well-rounded critical praise, won the German National Film award for a debut feature and ran at the New York Film Festival.
The director followed Signs of Life with two shorts in 1969, Precautions Against Fanatics and The Flying Doctors of East Africa, and a 1970 documentary about the disabled,Handicapped Future.
His second feature film, the 1970 Even Dwarfs Started Small, depicts the daily activities of a bunch of dwarfs and midgets in a German penal community. Horrified, the German authorities banned it, but critics everywhere raved over its disturbing allegorical portrait of life.
Herzog issued his third feature, the critical darling and arthouse mainstay Fata Morgana, in 1971. After completing the documentary Land of Silence and Darkness that same year, Herzog embarked on the first of a series of collaborations with the maniacally intense actor Klaus Kinski, Aguirre the Wrath of God (1972).
This story of insane Spanish conquistador Don Lope de Aguirre, (Kinski) and his ill-fated quest to locate El Dorado, the Incan city of gold, forced Herzog and the crew to venture deep into the heart of the Peruvian jungles, where they battled now-legendary conditions to obtain the images. Critics and the public instantly heralded the film as a masterwork. Later, Herzog emerged with The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser (1975) and the uber-cerebral drama Heart of Glass.
After a 1975 documentary, the 47-minute The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner, Herzog produced his 1977 Stroszek, a tale of three German social outcasts who immigrate to Wisconsin.
In the late seventies, Herzog masterfully re-filmed F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu (1978) with Kinski as his vampiric lead; he followed it up with yet another Kinski collaboration, a big screen adaptation of Georg Buchner’s stage work Woyzeck,which drew additional critical praise. He followed it up with another a TV drama work God’s Angry Man (1980).
Between 1980 and 1982, Herzog managed to top the insanity of that film shoot with the most difficult production in movie history. With Fitzcarraldo, he sought to tell the story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, a 19th century eccentric opera lover, determined to bring the music of Enrico Caruso to the Peruvian indians by actually pulling a steamship over the top of a mountain.
During the production, a plane crashed and killed several locals, lead Jason Robards acquired amoebic dysentery and had to be replaced with Kinski, the central steamers became mired in the mud and could not be moved until rainy season, a tribal war nearly erupted, and the steamer that the film crew attempted to drag over the top of the mountain became stuck midway.
Famed documentarists Maureen Gosling and Les Blank foresaw the calamities prior to the shoot, and filmed the ordeal in their haunting documentary Burden of Dreams (1982), a work that was itself lauded as a masterpiece.
In 1984, Herzog filmed two acclaimed shorts: The Green Glow of the Mountains and The Ballad of the Little Soldier. Herzog shot his feature Where the Green Ants Dream (1985) in Australia; it concerns a mining corporation’s ill-advised attempts to extract much-needed materials from sacred Aboriginal ground. Later on, Herzog embarked on his final collaboration with Kinski, the adventure drama Cobra Verde.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Herzog largely drifted into hardcore documentary work. His documentaries from this period include: Lessons of Darkness (1992), Bells from the Deep: Faith and Superstition in Russia (1993), The Transformation of the World into Music (1994), Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997), Wings of Hope (2000), Wheel of Time (2003), Incident at Loch Ness (2004), The White Diamond (2004) and Grizzly Man (2005) – comprised of footage shot by ill-fated “Grizzly Bear expert” Timothy Treadwell just before his death in a bear attack – elicited particularly strong acclaim.
2001’s Invincible dramatizes the story of a Jewish man who rose to power with the Nazis, only to renounce his party affiliations and swear allegiance to his people as Hitler crested the height of fame and authority. The director’s 2006 Rescue Dawn culled inspiration from his 1997 Dieter Needs to Fly, with a fictional recreation of the true events captured in that documentary. In addition to his directing and screenwriting work, Herzog has acted in a number of films, most memorably in Les Blank’s documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe and in Paul Cox’s 1983 picture Man of Flowers, Herzog plays the central character’s stern, disciplinarian father during a wordless flashback. -- AllMovie guide
Signs of Life (1968)
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
Fata Morgana (1971)
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
Heart of Glass (1976)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Where the Green Ants Dream (1984)
Cobra Verde (1987)
Scream of Stone (1991)
Lessons of Darkness (1992)
The Wild Blue Yonder (2005)
Rescue Dawn (2007)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)
Geschichten vom Kübelkind (1971)
Werner Herzog eats his shoe (1980)
Burden of Dreams (1982)
Man of Flowers (1983)
Bride of the Orient (1989)
Hard to Be a God (1990)
Tales from the Opera (1994)
Burning Heart (1995)
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Julien Donkey-Boy (1999)
Incident at Loch Ness (2004)
Mister Lonely (2007)
The Grand (2007)
Plastic Bag (2009)
Lessons of Darkness | Lektionen in Finsternis (1992)
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser - Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (1974)
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
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