Herzog’s “Pilgrimage”

When it come to films no one has influence me more than Werner Herzog’s. Only Herzog aficionados can understand this fascination. Herzog’s theme has always been about spiritual experiences, obsessions, the impossible dreams, the frailty of human relations and the painful realities of this broken world. I watch his films not for entertainment but to experience something new and be taken on a journey of dreams.

I discovered his films in 2001 when I was still in college trying to explore my artistic side (which I later found was never likely to give good results). I didn’t know who he was even after seeing “Aguirre: The Wrath of God”. I thought the movie was strange because it was about a deranged conquistador but the characters spoke German.

“Aguirre” was only the beginning – I would later on see almost all of his featured films and documentaries (including the most recent ones).

I can listen to Herzog forever. With his thick German accent he elegantly narrates his stories in English. He mastered to speak his second language by living in a poor suburb somewhere in London in the 60’s. This is just an example of one of his many eccentricities. Speaking of his “eccentricities” my favorite is when he ate his shoe. After publicly stating that he will do so if filmmaker Errol Morris completes “Gates of Heaven”. Errol did and his good friend made true his promise.

Below is a documentary of Herzog’s about religion. Perhaps because it was about religion he chose not to narrate it and instead use music (BBC symphony orchestra). “Pilgrimage” captures the fervent religious passion of devotees of St Sergius of Radonezh and our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

The film is made of powerful images that show the many different sides of religious devotion that to many appears to be nothing more than fanaticism. The one in Mexico reminds me of  traditional Catholics back home. When I was a child I would witness my mother walk kneeling to the altar then back where she started in Baclaran. I’ve never done this but all my life I wonder what it was all about. I thought of her mad but later on in life I begun to understand that these are personal spiritual experiences that are so complex, so intense it goes beyond our ability to fully grasp what it really is – it can never be explained – only observed.

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3 responses to “Herzog’s “Pilgrimage”

  • Isabel de Ilocos

    Aguirre Ira de Dios is one of my all time favorite movies. And Herzog’s account of how he filmed it is just as fascinating, it was included in the DVD when I rented it from Blockbuster not long ago. I saw it when it came out in 1975, thereabouts, when I was living in the Bay Area. I was just a kid but it made a big impression on me. And the relationship bet. him and Klaus Kinski during the filming was just one more great story. Herzog must be an amazing man to talk to.

    I agree with you re your mother’s religiousness, and how we can’t make it fit in any rational framework, it is another reality, simply.

    • De AnDA

      @ Tita Isabel – Herzehog is the man. Last week, I was watching some of his interviews last week on youtube. Like what I said, I can listen to him all day. He’s no phony, very honest. Klaus Kinski is a great artist but a mad one! I love his psycho looking face. I don’t know how Herzehog dealt with this guy!

      @alvin – Yes, Grizzly man is a great film. If it was any other director, the end for sure would revolve around the horrific bear attack but Herzehog is different. He refused to use the material and even advised the woman that was keeping the audio of the bear attack to throw it away! His films are about the emotions of his characters, their dreams, and in that film, Treadwell’s obsession and how he ended up there in Alaska.

  • Alvina

    Have you seen Grzzly man? Herzog is amazing…

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