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.