Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog is considered one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema creating various significant achievements such as Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1975), Heart of Glass (1976), Stroszek (1977), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). All his stories present complex heroes with impossible dreams, people with unique talents in obscure fields, or individuals who are in conflict with nature and man. Herzog was born Werner Herzog Stipetic in Munich and when he was 2 weeks old his mother took refuge to the remote Bavarian village of Sachrang after the house next to theirs was destroyed during a World War II bombing raid. In Sachrang, Herzog grew up without running water, electricity or a telephone. He never saw films, and didn’t even know of the existence of cinema until a traveling projectionist came by the one-room schoolhouse in Sachrang. After his father abandoned the family early in his youth Werner later adopted his father’s surname Herzog; which he thought sounded more impressive for a filmmaker. Around this time, he knew he would be a filmmaker, and even stole a 35 mm camera from the Munich Film School. Besides using professional actors—German, American and otherwise—especially in his documentaries, Herzog is known for using locals to benefit what he calls “ecstatic truth.” Herzog and the volatile leading actor Klaus Kinski are two of the most unusual and brilliant actor-director teams in cinematic history, committing a total of five collaborations together. Kinski was known to be a major source of tension on several film sets, as he fought virulently with Herzog and other members of the cast and crew. Throughout the years Herzog’s films have received considerable critical acclaim and achieved popularity on the art house circuit. They have also been the subject of controversy in regard to their themes and messages, especially the circumstances surrounding their creation. A notable example is the courageous filmmaking in both Aguirre, Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, in which the obsessiveness of the central characters were greatly reflected by the real life emotional pressure by the filmmaker. Burden of Dreams (1982), a documentary filmed during the making of Fitzcarraldo explored Herzog’s strenuous efforts to finish the film in harsh and dangerous conditions, and it is quite clear that everyone who was associated with the making of that film became scarred by its experience. Bold and epic projects like this could never be made today, because the film-making process that Herzog and his cast and crew endured were grueling, risky and at times even life threatening. Filmmaker François Truffaut once called Herzog “the most important film director alive,” while critic Roger Ebert said Herzog “has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.”

Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Werner Herzog

Stroszek (1977)

“We’ve got a truck on fire…can’t find the switch to turn the ski lift off…and can’t stop the dancing chicken…Send an electrician.” In one of the most strangest and fascinating art films ever made, Werner Herzog’s Stroszek tells the simple story of a mentally disabled ex-con, a tiny quirky best friend and a girlfriend who is […]


Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, The (1974)

Werner Herzog’s masterful film The Engima of Kaspar Hauser tells a historical true story about a young man barely able to speak and walk, who mysteriously appeared in town square early one morning during the year 1828 in Nuremberg, Germany. The townspeople found him clutching the Bible in one hand and an anonymous letter in the […]


Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo is a beautiful constructed masterpiece of gigantic epic proportions and is one of the boldest and bravest films in the history of the cinema. A film project like this could never be made today, because the film-making process that Herzog and his cast and crew endured was grueling, risky and at times life threatening, filming on location in the jungles […]


Run by a madman



Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

“After the conquest and plundering of the Inca empire by Spain, the Indians invented the legend of El Dorado. A land of gold, located in the swamps of the Amazon headwaters. A large expedition of Spanish adventurers, led by Gonzalo Pizarro, set off from the Peruvian highlands in late 1560. The only document to survive […]