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Werner Herzog expresses in Barcelona his fascination for volcanoes and affirms that gray hair makes him remember Klaus Kinski


“You have to go where history is,” said this afternoon at a press conference at the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) the German filmmaker Werner Herzog after sighing because the filmmaking workshop that he is going to give in the Canary Islands from 22 October to 2 November is in Lanzarote and not in La Palma, where to be now “would be wonderful and exciting.” He added: “I know we cannot change islands, but I would love to go.” The director of Aguirre, la cholera de Dios or Fitzcarraldo, has expressed his inveterate fascination for volcanoes, on which he has shot works such as La Soufrière: waiting for the inevitable disaster (1977), dedicated to the eruption on the island of Guadalupe, in the Antilles, or Inside the volcano: a journey to the depths of hell (2016), with the volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer. “There is a quality of spectacle in volcanoes, of beauty and violence,” Herzog (Munich, 79 years), who recalled that “the entire planet encloses a mass of incandescent magma under our feet that can come out anywhere and at any time, like on La Palma.”

The filmmaker explained that he is currently preparing a film “that is neither documentary nor fiction” about the French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, always the first to arrive at the eruptions, killed by the pyroclastic flow of Mount Unzen in Japan in 1991, and that they left 414 hours of footage about his work. The film, Fire within , is conceived by Herzog as “a musical requiem.”

Herzog has answered EL PAÍS’s question as to whether he has eventually made peace with the late Klaus Kinski, whoever was his fetish author and – he told it himself in My Intimate Enemy (1999) – his nightmare. “Four decades ago I made the last movie with him, he is my prehistory. We believe in conflict and we achieve things of great intensity. It was a unique experience and I have no regrets ”. To which he added with a wink: “Every gray hair I have I call Kinski.” That he is usually associated with excessive characters such as Lope de Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo, Francisco Manoel da Silva ( Green Cobra ) or Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) of Lieutenant corrupt , he has said that the condition of being larger than life and being on the verge of madness in any case belongs to his characters and not his. And he has relativized that they are only a small part of the many characters that appear in his more than 70 films.

The director is in Barcelona to present Werner Herzog: filming a strange project, the course in Lanzarote promoted by the Catalan production company La Selva Ecosistema Creativo-Acceleradora de Cine during which, throughout 11 Expedited days, 70 filmmakers will experience all phases of the cinematographic creative process under the guidance of the author of films such as The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Woyzek or Nosferatu , to build your own movies. Herzog will also give a master class today at the Serializados festival and tomorrow he will visit the Barcelona Film School and in the afternoon he will present his documentary Nomad about Bruce Chatwin (of whom he shot Green Cobra about his novel The Viceroy of Ouidah ).

Training and opportunities to diversify stories

The co-directors of the La Selva collective that promotes the course project, Marc Vila and Liliana Díaz, have explained at the CCCB (where Herzog has already been as a guest at the Kosmopolis festival in 2017 and last year in virtual format) which are a cooperative to promote film projects with filmmakers from different countries, although they are based in Barcelona. Its objective is to provide training and opportunities, democratize cinema and diversify its stories. The course with Herzog, in collaboration with the Lanzarote Film Festival, takes place on the island due to the filmmaker’s special relationship with the place, where he shot in 1968 The dwarfs also started small (1970). Herzog, in the wake of Abbas Kiarostami, has already collaborated in the initiative in Cuba in 2017 and in the Peruvian jungle in 2018.

The director of the Lanzarote festival, Javier Fuentes has highlighted that Herzog is “ almost a prodigal son of Lanzarote ”and has praised the figure of the filmmaker as the author of“ unforgettable images ”from the history of cinema. Herzog has said that he feels great emotion at the thought that he will return to the island, which he considers “a good place for a workshop , because everyone who participates will be out of their own landscape” . In relation to volcanology, he explained that “perhaps, if we are lucky, the island of Lanzarote may come back to life with some fire coming out of it.”

Asked about why what makes movies, has answered that because he has not learned to do anything else. “Maybe I could be an athlete, I liked doing ski jumps, flying, but I gave it up when a friend suffered a near-fatal accident,” added the author of The great ecstasy of the wooden sculptor Steiner (1974). “I really have no answer to why I make films, films come to me with great coherence and I have to make them, I fulfill my duty as a good soldier would do.”

El cineasta alemán Werner Herzog, en Barcelona,
The German filmmaker Werner Herzog, in Barcelona, ​​ Enric Fontcuberta (EFE)

Of the people in the course he has said that he does not know them and that he is prepared for any surprise. “For years there has been an avalanche of young people who have come to me to learn, which flatters me; I listen to them and try to understand their aspirations and their problems. The one I offer is not a teaching ex-chair , of course, they will have to make a movie, not me, they will have to roll up their sleeves and create something. And it’s not a joke, they will. I assure you that everyone will finish that movie. ” He added that he hopes they have a different vision from his, “it would be horrible to create clones of myself, they are artists, you have to let them breathe and start their creativity.”

As for to the series, he has confessed that he has a project “in hibernation”, but for the moment he continues his usual path of making individual films, this year three projects in total, one with his eldest son Rudolf. The series seem to him an opportunity to do long things, like The Karamazov brothers , great epic things or to recover works by Tólstoi, “not everything has to be ten-minute clips of TikTok”. On the future of cinema, he has pointed out that he does his job and never complains. But that doesn’t mean I’m optimistic, and I’m not a prophet either. I see some elements that change like the streaming and I am not against it, I am very curious about how all this will evolve. A lot of my filmography can be seen nowadays in Montana or Bangladesh, even in places where there are no cinemas and that seems fine to me. ”

He has also referred to the documentary by Madrid-born Pablo Maqueda Dear Werner , that goes through the places that the German filmmaker went through when, in the seventies, he walked from Munich to Paris in honor of the critics of German film Lotte Evans. “It is good to walk, following my steps or not, he asked me and I gave him advice, I encouraged him to walk.” And on having played the villain in The Mandalorian , the series that expands the universe of Star Wars, has given him many satisfactions . “In a pass with very young fans of Star Wars when my name came out there was a shout of joy. I was very excited, it was like going out to play at the Camp Nou and for everyone to know you, something very new for me. ”