"There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization."—Herzog's "Minnesota Declaration," 1999
A Crazy Awesome leader of the German New Wave. A man beloved on the Art House circuit and with several mainstream successes under his belt. His films, both fictional and documentary, are often slow and atmospheric, but are universally beautiful and human. Really, his films only have one subject - the infinite power of human will and the subsequent potential for self-destruction.
He has made films in both German and English.
Has Made Such Films As:
- Even Dwarfs Started Small
- Aguirre, the Wrath of God
- The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
- Cobra Verde
- Grizzly Man
- Rescue Dawn
- Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams
- Encounters at the End of the World
... and many others.
Werner Herzog's films provide examples of:
- Adam Westing: Herzog has a number of acting credits and is often playing a parody of himself. The Boondocks and Incident at Loch Ness are two examples.
- Author Appeal: His films all feature men with strange abilities or obsessions, and he has a hatred of chickens. In The Grand he plays a gambler with an obsession over his pet chicken.
- Brutal Honesty: Herzog is known for making strong, blunt statements in his smooth, almost lyrical tone of voice.
- Documentary: Several, including one Mockumentary.
- Eating Shoes: Herzog literally ate one of his shoes on camera, resulting in the aptly-titled short documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. The reason was a bet with the filmmaker Errol Morris that the latter would never complete his documentary project Gates of Heaven (he did).
- Fauxlosophic Narration / Nietzsche Wannabe: Albeit in a good way. BBC film critic Mark Kermode (the interviewer when Herzog was shot with the air rifle) in particular seems to be a fan of Herzog's narration style and called him "The great Germanic nihilist". For example he thought Eat Pray Love would have been improved if "Werner Herzog had come on and told her (Julia Roberts) there is no God. The end".
I get the feeling the abyss looked back into Werner Herzog and goes "blimey..." - Mark Kermode
- Humans Are Bastards: Relentlessly examined in his work. His bastards usually have layers, but they're still bastards.
- Large Ham: Herzog provides the narration for his documentaries. While his diction is generally even, the things he says are this.
- Lemony Narrator: A common component of his Signature Style is the contrast between his over-the-top narration and the stark, genuine nature of the footage he is talking over.
- Long Runner: He's coming up on forty years, with almost a film a year.
- Missed The Plane: At the beginning of Wings of Hope (aka Julianes Sturz in den Dschungel) a documentary about Juliane Koepcke the Sole Survivor of a plane crash in Peru in 1971, Herzog explains that he and his crew were booked on the same flight while heading to film Aguirre Wrath of God, but they missed it due to overbooking.
- Nature Is Not Nice: Most notably in Grizzly Man, in which Herzog narrates about how beautiful Timothy Treadwell's footage is, while at the same time lambasting him for being so naive about it. Also a theme in Aguirre and Rescue Dawn.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent... not that there's anything wrong with it.
- Scenery Porn: The man can photograph a scene. He has also stated that he has a thing for forests, in case that was not evident from his films.
- Signature Style
- Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism: From idealistic Fitzcarraldo to cynical Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Just comparing The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser to Stroszek can cause whiplash.
- Vitriolic Best Friends: Herzog's relationship with late, infamously choleric actor Klaus Kinski became the subject of the documentary My Best Fiend. The two cooperated on five movies, while at the same time supposedly nearly killing each other multiple times. In My Best Fiend, Herzog confirmed that he threatened to kill Kinski as well as himself if the former would abandon the production of Aguirre, and that during the filming of Fitzcarraldo, local natives who had witnessed Kinski' rages had offered to kill Kinski for him.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Some fans and critics had this reaction, due to Rescue Dawn's innacurate and extremely-negative portrayal of deceased soldier, Eugene Debruin. Herzog himself expressed remorse over the portrayal in the Rescue Dawn DVD bonus featurettes.
- With Friends Like These...: He also said of Klaus Kinski: "People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other's murder."