In Search of A/The Point of Life

WERNER HERZOG (‘My mandate is poetry. Period.’) WAS CHARMING, AS EXPECTED. Unexpected: technical cockup, and a very cocky ‘interviewer’ who should be subjected to a Kinski rant, 23 March 2011.

In the midst of a mid-journey lassitude and systematic switching-off-of-things-&-people, we came across the astounding news that the legendary German auteur Werner Herzog was visiting Nondon. The many powerful works of the poet-philosopher (our favourite include Fitzcarraldo, Even Dwarfs Started Small, the Enigma of Kasper Hauser, My Best Fiend and Heart of Glass) have long haunted/irritated/angered/moved/inspired/stirred us across our many lifetimes. Magical as they are polemical, we have always made at least one of his films compulsory viewing for our students in our previous lives. As we run, out of breath, and everywhere we run, anytime we run, across lands, ages, cultures and political circumstances, Herzog is one we turn to whenever we feel that we are losing our bearings (Other guides we turn to include Tarkovsky, Chris Marker, Apichatpong, EM Cioran, Pessoa, Chagall, Bach, Beethoven, Barthes, Tristram Shandy, Maguerite Duras, Samuel Beckett). (Not that losing one’s bearings is a bad thing, for not being clear, being confused, having doubts, being torn both and all sides leftrightcentre by opposing sentiments, being pissed off, being irritated by pesky things, finding everything and everybody pesky, feeling lethargic, and hitting of walls are vital parts of any meaningful process of working.) We have had the privilege of encountering Herzog in the flesh in a previous life and were, as expected,  charmed by Herzog ‘live’ (a very polished, calculated performance by the maestro no doubt). Hence, when the chance to catch him again here, in Nondon, in this life, popped up, we ran for it. Literally.

2 things spoiled our evening: 1) repeated technical cock-ups: The microphones registered a noise throughout, and the projector failed to work at a few points. For a £30 ticket in a grand, 900-seater situated in the posh Belgravia, such flaws were surely unforgivable – not to mention utterly embarassing,  in the presence of a top-notch filmmaker; not to mention too that many in the crowd were clearly people with professional relationships to the film/cultural industry in one way or another (everyone of whom was polite- in the pictures above, look at the neat queues we form the entire evening as we patiently awaited for the doors to open!).  To say the least, this was a booboo, big time. 2) The next thing that spoiled our evening was the interviewer. Or ‘interviewer’, so-called. Aware that there are many young (what society labels as ‘underaged’ and ‘vulnerable’?) people who read this running blog, we shall sum up the work of this interviewer as such: very, very, very, very, very, very cr*p’ that evening (or all evenings? and day times?). Let us explain (for we are responsible adults [470days-old as we are, out of our 1000-day lifespan) who support any claims of ours, however obvious, with studiously-crafted elucidations). Although it was alleged (by the interviewer) that the interviewer had worked with Herzog on several occassions before, and that the interviewer and the filmmaker are personal friends (another allegation put forward by the interviewer himself, with comments such as ‘your wife told me that …’), the interviewer did not seem to have done enough homework, and was even disrepectful to his subject: Not only did he abruptly interrupt Herzog throughout the 2.5 hours, he would look at his watch in an obvious manner.  We are disinterested in interviewers who are only fawning to their subject (even if for the goal of ‘getting more’ out of them), but this really felt profoundly wrong and cringe-inducing, for, the interviewer seemed to try way too hard in getting across his own agenda – that is, that he, and not just his celebrity subjects, had a personality, too – which only goes to show his own insecurity and incompetence (the personality of the best interviewers/interpretants would naturally shine through – see Jeremy Paxman, Jon Snow and Glenn Gould for instance).  There was no effort whatsoever from the interviewer to build a rapport/chemistry/lively tension with his subject. And, when the projector broke down, said interviewer even went on hissy fits – as if he was the star of the show and the one being allowed to have hissy fits – and Herzog even calmed him down. In classic Herzog-ian manner, the filmmaker returned the frivololity, rudeness with a picture of calm, no doubt honed for several years by his fiery working relationship with the superbly brilliant but/and supremely mad Klaus Kinski. Herzog was above the petty and attention-seeking tactics of the interviewer, towards whom we feel not anger but sympathy – for feeling the need to do what he did. So what if this same interviewer is said to have interviewed several big names? This one gig he did that we saw was, simply put, not interesting. Not interesting at all.  And it seems that we are far from alone in our evaluation of the interviewer’s diabolical performance for the evening.

Speaking of diabolicalness and human foibles, we leave us with Herzog’s quote: that ‘the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder’.