The Dark Glow of the Mountains & The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner

Saturday, August 13

One screening only!

The Dark Glow of the Mountains
1985, 45 minutes

“Werner Herzog’s 1985 television documentary [THE DARK GLOW OF THE MOUNTAINS] could well be an attempt to moderate the overweening mythology implicit in this symbolism of the mountain. Balancing the metaphysical and the humanistic, and eventually tipping in favour of the latter, Herzog’s 45-minute documentary demystifies – or, if you like, de-Aryanises – the German cult of alpinism. At the same time, the death-defying trials of his mountaineering heroes allow Herzog to indulge his characteristic themes: the madness of quixotic obsession, the limitations of man in the face of infinite Nature, and, most of all, the ephemerality of human ambition.

“…The narrative follows the 1984 trek of mountaineers Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander, the first climbers to scale the twin summits of the Himalayan Gasherbrums without aid of stationary camps or oxygen. Though the film is suffused with epical footage of mist-shrouded vistas – the long shots seem like vast, snowy foils to the claustrophobic jungles of Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982) – Herzog here carefully balances man with the natural world of which he is biologically a part… Within this wintry landscape, Herzog frequently pauses for straightforward interviews meant to psychologise his protagonists. When we learn that one climber was a simple bricklayer for five years, Herzog probes him about his unheroic labour. This is the sort of interview sequence most directors would relegate to the cutting room floor – but Herzog’s deliberate inclusion of it emphasises his heroes’ humility and workmanlike decency. These mountaineers are not triumphalist conquerors but slightly mad, introspective naturalists for whom the romance of the Bergfilme is a well-clouded memory.” –Senses of Cinema

1974, 47 minutes

“A film about flying in the face of death. In Steiner’s case, the flying is literal: he is a champion ski-jumper, in Herzog’s view the best in the world because the most profoundly fearless. Convention would call this a ‘documentary reportage’, but convention would be wrong: the angle of approach is wholly unexpected, and Herzog’s own participation as commentator/interviewer/hero-worshipper/myth-maker guarantees a really extraordinary level of engagement with the subject. Watch especially how he coaxes a truly revealing story about a pet raven out of a highly embarrassed Steiner in the closing moments. Herzog, a surrealist to the core, knows that the real world offers more fantastic phenomena than anything he can imagine.” –Time Out (London)

Images ©Werner Herzog Film

Part of the series Ecstatic Truths: Documentaries by Herzog

  • Running Time minutes
  • Director Werner Herzog