The brazen Bavarian Werner Herzog is back with his latest directorial effort, ‘Salt and Fire’
06 / 22 / 2016
On the fine line separating the fearless from the reckless is where you’ll often find Werner Herzog. Again and again over his five decades in film, the German director has turned his lens on figures who walk that tightrope, frequently in exotic landscapes – the bear-obsessed loner of “Grizzly Man,” the Irish rubber baron who wanted to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle in “Fitzcarraldo,” the oddball Antarctic poets of “Encounters at the End of the World.”
Such characters seem to be both reflections and projections of the director himself, who has become legendary for real-life episodes of derring-do in the execution of his professional duties, though Herzog recounts them almost nonchalantly.
He’s been detained during a coup attempt in Africa (“a case of mistaken identity – they were looking for a guy named Hertz,” he explains with a wave of the hand). He was shot in the crotch near Lookout Mountain in Los Angeles, not far from his home, during an interview with the BBC (“a minor wound,” he demurs, with a twinkle in his eye).
Perhaps most infamously, one of Herzog’s local crew members sawed off his own foot deep in the South American jungle to save himself from a poisonous snake bite. (“It was the right thing to do, because he survived,” Herzog intones matter-of-factly, his Bavarian accent still strong despite decades in America.)
But at 73, Herzog insists he remains firmly on the sane side of the line.
“I was always, not without fear, but from a certain point in my life, [fear] is not even in my vocabulary anymore,” said Herzog last week at the Shanghai International Film Festival, where he premiered his latest film, “Salt and Fire.” “But it’s not stupid fearlessness. There’s such a thing as heroic stupidities, and there are some sort of grotesque stupidities, and there are such a thing as stupid stupidities, and I’m not into that… none of those categories.”
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