‘Ants cannot be wrangled,’ and other life lessons from Werner Herzog

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Coming in at nearly 500 pages, A Guide for the Perplexed is enough Werner Herzog for even the most ardent fan of the German (he would say Bavarian) director. Throughout the book, which is a series of interviews with film scholar┬áPaul Cronin, Herzog waxes poetic as he looks back on his decades as a filmmaker, and his prevailing ethos of “Get it done, even if it requires box-cutters and forged documents.” After all, no director worth his salt doesn’t know where to get a forged passport.

Not to say the book isn’t enjoyable, particularly the Klaus Kinski moments (Herzog and Kinski made six pictures together, during which they were famously at odds, to say the least). It’s also inspiring, and an intriguing look at Herzog’s influences and favourite artists (more painters and authors than filmmakers).

I also gleaned these words of wisdom:

“I would never trust in a man who has had multiple helmets by the age of five.”

“I can tell from fifty feet away whether someone knows how to tug on an udder.”

(on Hollywood scriptwriters): “They are bedwetters, every one of them.”

“Text messaging is the bastard child handed to us by the absence of reading.”

“And anyway, a┬áman should eat his shoes every once in a while.”

“The world reveals itself to those who travel by foot.”

“I won’t be unhappy if readers come away from this book with nothing other than the fact that ants cannot be wrangled.”

“A grown man should have a good whistle.”

“A man should prepare a decent meal at least once a week. I’m convinced it’s the only real alternative to cinema.”

Also, this (in an essay by Herbert Golder): “As we drove off he told me he regretted he had such little time to read, but that when he did it was things like books about lion taming.”

And, thanks to this book, I discovered the dreadful yet delightfully unwatchable Kinski Paganini, the only film the actor directed and wrote.

 

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