Thursday, October 25, 2007
Herzog at Penn 10/24/07
Werner Herzog recently gave a two hour speech at the University of Pennsylvania entitled Was The 20th Century A Mistake? I don't know if anyone else recorded it in any sort of official context but I did with a shitty computer microphone and a minidisc player and - I must tell you - it was magical. The actual talk (which had nearly nothing to do with it's title (which I think came about mostly out the hosts' need to assert their own intelligence and sense of importance (which was a theme they carried over into the "interview" itself))) not the recording, which suffers from bad microphones (theirs, which kept cutting out and getting static), my fidgeting, my laughing, and at one point my getting a phone call from my Mom. It's not that bad, but apologies are still in order.
You miss a lot by not actually being in the same room as him. Seeing him is one thing: the eyes that sag under the bulbous forehead emerging from his skull like a second birth into raw and dangerous space, the obvious physical fortitude, the leather bomber jacket, the illustration of his face and hands when he talks, but more than anything else (to parallel something he points out later in the interview) what's great about being near him is not reading the body but something much more receptive. Like being in the same room as some really fulfilling radiator.
All of it gives his message more weight, he seems not like the dangerously insane Greek myth of a man snickered about at ironic film school cheese parties. He seems like a man in possession of an essential sanity. A sanity that never turned away with age. A sanity that embraces real risk and demands it of every other member of the human race. You know you're listening to a profound man if you're laughing at what he has to say. Like David Lynch, Herzog can tell a joke but he can get a laugh much more easily by simply speaking from his heart.
Here is an intro for the event by the assistant director of Penn's Cinema Studies who has an affected Italian accent.
Here is an intro for Herzog by Nathaniel Kahn who directed My Architect.
The room it was held in (which I think maybe seated 200-250 people) was packed a good half hour before the show started and people were eventually told they could sit in the isles. Later though, they were told they actually couldn't block the isles as it was a fire hazard. Then they were told again and that the event would have to be canceled if they wouldn't leave. Then they were told the police had been called. Then the police had to come in the room and begin herding these fucking brats out of the hall. Then the cops had to argue with the really tenacious ones that refused to rise in the face of police intimidation. Then began the slowest fucking march of 20 people across a five foot line in space in the history of mankind. I included the audio of the last part of this experience for whatever reason you can find for it which is probably none. There's also audio of the montage of Herzog's films and the audience's reaction.
And here is Herzog: