Does Werner Herzog subscribe to the belief that his films are art?

So you certainly don’t subscribe to the belief that your films are in any way ‘art films’?

Absolutely not, they are no such thing. I dislike intensely even the concept of artists in this day and age. The last King of Egypt, King Farouk, completely obese in exile, wolfing one lamb leg after another, said something very beautiful: ‘There are no kings left in the world any more, only the King of Hearts, the King of Diamonds, the King of Spades, and the King of Clubs.’ The whole concept of being an artist is also somehow outdated today. There is only one place left where you find artists: the circus. There you can find the trapeze artists, the jugglers, even the hunger artist. Film is not analysis, it is the agitation of the mind; cinema comes from the country fair and the circus, not from art and academicism. I truly feel that in the world of the painter or novelist or film director there are no artists. This is a concept that belongs to earlier centuries, where there was such a thing as virtue and pistol duels at dawn with men in love, and damsels fainting on couches.

Michelangelo, Caspar David Friedrich and Hercules Segers: these men are artists. ‘Art’ is a legitimate concept in their respective eras. They are like the emperors and kings who remain the crucial figures in the history of humankind and whose influence is felt even today, something that certainly cannot be said of monarchies today. I am speaking not about the death of the artist; I just feel that creativity is perceived with something of an outdated and antiquated perspective. That is why I detest the word ‘genius’. It too is a word that belongs to an earlier time and not to our own era. It is a sick concept nowadays, and this is why with utmost caution did I once call Kinski a ‘genius’. My use of the word comes close to my feelings about the man, but the expression itself and the concept behind it is something that heralds from the late eighteenth century and just does not fit comfortably today.

From Herzog on Herzog.

12 thoughts on “Does Werner Herzog subscribe to the belief that his films are art?”

  1. Reblogged this on The Siamese Void and commented:
    These comments above remind me of an earlier post I made regarding the Jekyll and Hyde duo: artistry versus academia/fact/empirical research.

    Herzog maintains such a strong stance on the anatomy of his work, and yet the skin of cinema sheds and rebuilds definitions independently of itself, within itself.

    In an earlier quote he states, “Technology has a great advantage in that we are capable of creating dinosaurs and show them on the screen even though they are extinct 65 million years. All of a sudden, we have a fantastic tool that is as good as dreams are.”

    Can the most devout of realists engage in filmmaking and remain untouched by the artistry of the moving image? I honestly don’t think so. Even in Herzog’s case when the love affair is serious, restrained and empirical the artistic kinship of documentary and cinema resists defamation.

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  2. Mr. Herzog might save us from meaninful symbolism, and hopefully from ‘identity’ cinema and any descriptive phrase with ‘liberation’ in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Especially the ones that tell one what it all means, and cleverly reference other movies, metaphysics, psychology, etc., etc. Have you noticed how artists that are exhibited at The Tate have to write a little blurb about the social meaning of the work lest Nanny disapprove. Some of them are hilariously satirical. You know how those artists are.

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  3. Yes like Disneyland the place for meaningless entertainment, teaching children to desire meaninglessness. They label the names of the trees there. This is a Maple tree. This is an Oak tree. Da dum da dum da dum for dumkins.

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  4. The village where I lived has a ‘nature’ walk along the river bank. The path is replete with little signs labelling the trees (not the botanical names) and a brief quote from the Bible for reflection.

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