Lessons of Darkness & La Soufriere

Thursday, August 18, 2016

1992, 52 minutes

“Werner Herzog adopts the outlook of an extraterrestrial visitor for LESSONS OF DARKNESS, his otherworldly 1992 look at Kuwait after the gulf war. A consummate poet of doom, Mr. Herzog finds much here to affirm his apocalyptic premonitions. Oil fires rage, blackening the skies. Bomb craters attest to the recent damage. Implements of torture can still be found, in a place where even an old toaster carries sinister implications. A mother holds her traumatized son and says, ‘When my child wept, his tears were black.’

“In a film that is mostly voiceless, relying instead on interspersed written titles … Mr. Herzog includes scenes of this boy and another, different mother. They have both been left speechless by the effects of the war. Their condition underscores Mr. Herzog’s role as that rare, intuitive documentary film maker who bears witness to the mysterious, capturing phenomena much too strangely insinuating for the usual forms of description…. Mr. Herzog uses his gift for eloquent abstraction to create sobering, obscenely beautiful images of a natural world that has run amok: terminally, or so it seems. Among the eeriest sights are those of oilfield firemen moving slowly, as if their job had lost its urgency. Spookiest of all, within this film’s context of exquisite pessimism, is the semblance of a sunny ending.” –New York Times

1977, 31 minutes

“As 75,000 people were being evacuated from the island of Guadeloupe in 1976, Herzog characteristically flew in to film the predicted eruption of ‘La Soufrière’ volcano and find the one peasant reported to have remained behind. Manic adventure had its reward. The holocaust didn’t occur, the one peasant turned out to be a handful of calmly resigned natives; and the film metamorphosed into an essay on a deserted civilisation, like a surreal fourth chapter to Fata Morgana, or a sci-fi documentary on a city of starving dogs and blinking traffic lights.” -Time Out (London)
Images ©Werner Herzog Film
  • Director Werner Herzog

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