Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Lessons of Darkness
In 1992 Werner Herzog took a small crew to Kuwait after the first Iraq war was over and after Iraq evacuated, leaving a wake of destruction in their path. Herzog is famous for his garrulous narration in his documentaries, but the reality he discovered upon arrival was so visually compelling the vast majority of this doc contains no narration at all. In fact, all he does is play pieces by composers like Mahler and feeds the viewer a steady diet of desolate landscape after desolate landscape, with almost no dialogue or text. What this means is the flick is interesting and at times quite moving, but overall it’s not something that’s going to keep you gripped to your seat. Then, out of nowhere, it ends. I watched it with friends and half the room said, in unison, “It’s over?!” The movie comes in at about 45 minutes too. Very odd. Herzog seems to have endless amounts to say about the true nature of subjects that seem, on the surface, to be fairly transparent. I thought, going in, that he could fill this flick, about such a rich subject as the Iraq situation, with hours upon hours of commentary and engaging subtext, but in reality the movie is little more than a montage of interesting, albeit occasionally repetitive, imagery. It’s worth a watch, in that you’ll see aspects of the war that are rarely shown and images you’ve likely not seen before, and since it’s not very long at all, it’s not like it’s hard to make it through. That said, it’s hardly at the top of Herzog’s library of films, so if you’re aiming to see most of what he’s done, it’s worth it, but if you’re new to his work and wanting only a good taste, see Grizzly Man, Little Dieter Needs to Fly or My Best Fiend and skip this one.