Forgotten Dreams

Forgotten Dreams: Revisiting Romanticism in the Cinema of Werner Herzog

Laurie Ruth Johnson
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 310
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt18kr6wj
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Forgotten Dreams
    Book Description:

    Werner Herzog (b. 1942) is perhaps the most famous living German filmmaker, but his films have never been read in the context of German cultural history. And while there is a surfeit of film reviews, interviews, and scholarly articles on Herzog and his work, there are very few books devoted to his films, and none addressing his entire career to date. Until now. Forgotten Dreams offers not only an analytical study of Herzog's films but also a new reading of Romanticism's impact beyond the nineteenth century. It argues that his films re-envision and help us better understand a critical stream in Romanticism, and places the films in conversation with other filmmakers, authors, and philosophers in order to illuminate that critical stream. The result is a lively reconnection with Romantic themes and convictions that have been partly forgotten in the midst of Germany's postwar rejection of much of Romantic thought, yet are still operative in German culture today. The film analyses will interest scholars of film, German Studies, and Romanticism as well as a broader public interested in Herzog's films and contemporary German cultural debates. The book will also appeal to those interested in the ongoing renegotiation - by Western and other cultures - of relationships between reason and passion, civilization and wild nature, knowledge and belief. Laurie Ruth Johnson is Associate Professor of German, Comparative and World Literature, and Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-690-5
    Subjects: Film Studies, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
    L.R.J.
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Werner Herzog’s Films and the Other Discourse of Romanticism
    (pp. 1-11)

    Writing in Lima on June 25, 1979, where he had arrived to work on preproduction forFitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog called Peru a “sleepy country at which God’s wrath has cooled.”¹ But two years later, after the arduous creation of a film in which a steamship was pulled over a mountain in the jungle, political controversy and financial catastrophe nearly ended production, and the indigenous extras threatened to kill the lead actor, the director described the weather as a heaven-sent curse: “Today (June 5, 1981) the rain came down at midday as God’s scourge strikes the impious.”² Despite his short-lived conversion...

  7. 1: Image and Knowledge
    (pp. 12-71)

    In the essay “Ruysdael als Dichter” (1816; Ruisdael as Poet), Johann Wolfgang Goethe argues that Jacob van Ruisdael’s images seem to move, and in fact to enact a narrative. Goethe notes that the seventeenth-century painter’s technique is impeccable, but the essay focuses on Ruisdael “as a thinking artist, even as a poet” (als denkenden Künstler, ja als Dichter).¹ “Ruysdael als Dichter” implicitly disputes the conclusions of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’sLaokoon(1766; Laocoon), which states that painting and sculpture can only imitate plots or narratives, not convey them.² Ruisdael, counters Goethe, indeed can portray movement through time in his painting: his...

  8. 2: Surface and Depth
    (pp. 72-116)

    In 2004 Herzog published notes he kept during the preproduction and filming ofFitzcarraldobetween 1979 and 1982. EntitledConquest of the Useless(Die Eroberung des Nutzlosen), the book is emphatically not a production diary, but instead an impressionistic collection of fragments. In an entry dated July 29, 1980 (one quite representative of the collection’s style), he describes entering Belém do Pará with the costume designer Gisela Storch: “Into town with Gisela; because there is no sense of history, only a panting, sweating present, there is no hope of finding any historical costumes here.”¹ The director stylizes South America as...

  9. 3: Beauty and Sublimity
    (pp. 117-151)

    “I saw the home of a god” (Ich sah die Heimat eines Gottes), says the protagonist of Christoph Ransmayr’sAtlas eines ängstlichen Mannes(2012). Another chapter of this novel structured as a travelogue opens with the words “I saw an open grave” (Ich sah ein offenes Grab), and yet another with “I saw a distant figure” (Ich sah eine ferne Gestalt).¹ Ransmayr’s fiction, like Herzog’s oeuvre, is filled with images of awesome, existentially terrifying, often violent nature in remote, extreme, dangerous locales. As extreme as Ransmayr’s characters’ experiences are, they are often based on historical events; and he repeatedly inserts...

  10. 4: Man and Animal
    (pp. 152-179)

    In 1986 Reinhold Messner was trekking in a valley in Tibet, not far from the Mekong River, when he encountered what seemed to be “a bear with human abilities.” Shuffling forward, on two legs and yet huge, dark, and furry, the creature lunged toward Messner and then disappeared. InMy Quest for the Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas’ Deepest Mystery(Yeti—Legende und Wirklichkeit, 1998), Messner documents this and other encounters with a creature resembling the elusive entity, known in Tibet and around the world, as the chemo, Sasquatch, or Bigfoot.¹ The climber embarked on numerous expeditions to research the creature,...

  11. 5: Sound and Silence
    (pp. 180-207)

    In the section ofA Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautifulentitled “The Cries of Animals,” Edmund Burke writes:

    Such sounds as imitate the natural inarticulate voices of men, or any animals in pain or danger, are capable of conveying great ideas; unless it be the well-known voice of some creature, on which we are used to look with contempt. The angry tones of wild beasts are equally capable of causing a great and awful sensation. . . . It might seem that those modulations of sound carry some connection with the nature...

  12. Conclusion: Herzog’s Romantic Cinema
    (pp. 208-218)

    The 2013 Venice film festival included the premiere of a film directed by Edgar Reitz entitledDie andere Heimat, in which Werner Herzog plays Alexander von Humboldt on his way to meet Jakob Simon, with whom Humboldt had exchanged letters on the topic of indigenous Brazilian languages.¹Die andere Heimat’s emphasis on Humboldt’s interest in South America occurs in the context of a film thatDie Weltcalled a “Heimat-Film . . . a romantic narrative” (eine romantische Erzählung) in spite of its historical realism.² The choice of Herzog to play Humboldt underscores an affinity between Herzog and German cultural...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 219-258)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-284)
  15. Index
    (pp. 285-298)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)