Ferocious Reality: Documentary according to Werner Herzog

Ferocious Reality: Documentary according to Werner Herzog

by Eric Ames

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Over the course of his career Werner Herzog, known for such visionary masterpieces as Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974), has directed almost sixty films, roughly half of which are documentaries. And yet, in a statement delivered during a public appearance in 1999, the filmmaker declared: “There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.” Ferocious Reality is the first book to ask how this conviction, so hostile to the traditional tenets of documentary, can inform the work of one of the world’s most provocative documentarians.

Herzog, whose Cave of Forgotten Dreams was perhaps the most celebrated documentary of 2010, may be the most influential filmmaker missing from major studies and histories of documentary. Examining such notable films as Lessons of Darkness (1992) and Grizzly Man (2005), Eric Ames shows how Herzog dismisses documentary as a mode of filmmaking in order to creatively intervene and participate in it. In close, contextualized analysis of more than twenty-five films spanning Herzog’s career, Ames makes a case for exploring documentary films in terms of performance and explains what it means to do so. Thus his book expands the field of cinema studies even as it offers an invaluable new perspective on a little studied but integral part of Werner Herzog’s extraordinary oeuvre.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452933634
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication date: 10/17/2012
Series: Visible Evidence , #27
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Eric Ames is associate professor of German and a member of the cinema studies faculty at the University of Washington. He is coeditor of Germany’s Colonial Pasts and author of Carl Hagenbeck’s Empire of Entertainments.

Table of Contents



The Minnesota Declaration

Introduction: Werner Herzog, Documentary Outsider

1. Sensational Bodies

Game in the Sand

Handicapped Future

Land of Silence and Darkness


2. Moving Landscapes

The Dark Glow of the Mountains

Fata Morgana, La Soufrière

Lessons of Darkness

Wheel of Time

3. Ecstatic Journeys

Huie’s Sermon

Bells from the Deep


4. Baroque Visions

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner

Death for Five Voices

God and the Burdened

5. Cultural Politics


Ballad of the Little Soldier

Ten Thousand Years Older

The White Diamond

6. Reenactments

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Wings of Hope

Rescue Dawn

7. Autobiographical Acts

I Am My Films

Portrait Werner Herzog

My Best Fiend

Grizzly Man

Conclusion: Herzog’s Vérité

Encounters at the End of the World

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams



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