1942-, German director, screenwriter, and producer; originally named Werner Stipetic. One of the leading filmmakers in contemporary German cinema, the prolific Herzog is known for his vivid and poetic films. He made short films during the 1960s, made his first feature, Signs of Life,
in 1968, and came to wide public attention with Aguirre, the Wrath of God
(1972), a spectacular portrayal of the tropical rain forest and the character of a mad conquistador. Breathtaking landscape, acutely observed detail, mysterious heroes, and tales of danger and escape fill his work, which enthusiasts have called visionary and some critics have branded self-indulgent. His other feature films include The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
(1974), Heart of Glass
(1982; the subject of Les Blank's revealing 1982 documentary Burden of Dreams
), Hard to Be a God
(1989), and the Hollywood-made Invincible
Herzog has also made a group of varied and original documentaries. They include Lessons of Darkness (1992), which pictures a devastated Kuwait in the wake of the Persian Gulf War; My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski (1999), a portrait of the brilliant and wildly unpredictable actor who starred in five of his films; Wheel of Time (2003), exploring Tibetan Buddhism; and Grizzly Man (2005), the story of a man devoted to wild Alaskan bears who was ultimately killed by one. The plot of his documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)—a Vietnam War pilot is shot down, imprisoned, and escapes—was recounted in his Hollywood feature Rescue Dawn (2007). Herzog has also directed several television features and operas.
See his Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of "Fitzcarraldo" (2004, tr. 2009); Herzog on Herzog (2002), ed. by P. Cronin; study by T. Corrigan, ed. (1986); B. Presser, ed., Werner Herzog (2003).
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