The World According To Werner Herzog

The best bits from the director's new book 'A Guide For The Perplexed'

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Werner Herzog has never been a conventional filmmaker. He dragged a boat over a mountain in Fitzcarraldo, made Christian Bale eat maggots in Rescue Dawn and insisted key audio footage from his documentary Grizzly Man be destroyed.

Journalist Paul Cronin first met Herzog in 2000, and in the years since has spent hours in conversation with the 71-year-old, recording his thoughts on everything from movies and Hollywood, to marriage and his personal life.

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It the highlights from these interviews that constitute Cronin's new book, Werner Herzog: A Guide For The Perplexed.

Spanning 500 pages, it reveals a man as much a maverick in his outlook as he is in his profession. In the words of the director himself, “Facing the stark alternative to see a book on me compiled from dusty interviews with all the wild distortions and lies, or collaborating – I chose the much worse option: to collaborate.”

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We trawled through A Guide To The Perplexed to bring you Werner Herzog’s most profound, cryptic and occasionally baffling quotes.

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“If he does exist, I’m content to think of God as being as foolish, confused, contradictory and disorientated as man. As for the Devil, I believe in stupidity, which is as bad as it gets.”


“I’m fascinated by the notion of civilization as a thin layer of ice resting upon a deep ocean of darkness and chaos.”


“I astonish my wife by being capable of standing and staring through the window for days at a time.”


“It’s hostile and murderous out there in the universe; what looks friendly to us is actually two hundred thousand atomic explosions every second. The sun is a tiny grain of sand and there are many even nastier suns out there.”


“I’m aware of my reputation of being a ruthless madman, but when I look at Hollywood – which is a completely crazed place – it’s clear to me that I’m the only clinically sane person there.”


On living in a car: “I had a cast from my ankle to my hip because I had fractured my leg a few weeks earlier while playing around with the Franklin twins in Pittsburgh. They had a habit of ambushing me with the cheapest perfume they could find and soaking me with it. One day I decided to jump out from the third-floor bathroom window and tackle them from behind, but that hadn’t gone as anticipated.”


“You would get me watching Wrestle Mania before you could drag me into a theatre. I’m much more comfortable with the vulgarity of that crowd. There is more honesty in Wrestle Mania’s fakery than in traditional theatre.”


“Deserts are mysterious places. The Sahara is so unreal it’s like being in a perpetual dream or on another planet… At night the stars are so close that you can harvest them with your outstretched hands.”


“I can see, on the horizon, unpronounced and unproclaimed images. I can sense the hypnotic qualities of things that to everyone else look unobtrusive, then excavate and articulate these collective dreams with some clarity.”


Werner Herzog: A Guide For The Perplexed (Faber & Faber) is released on August 14.

 

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