Few directors dive so fearlessly into the fray of filmmaking as Werner Herzog. Born Werner Stipetic in Bavaria in 1942, Herzog studied literature and history at the University of Munich, and made his first short film, “Herakles” (1961), with a purportedly stolen 35mm camera. Emerging with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders at the forefront of the New German Cinema movement in the 1970s, Herzog wrote and produced nearly all his own films, flying in the face of not only the movie industry but nature itself - dragging a ship across a mountain for FITZCARRALDO was but one of his legendary acts of Ahab-like defiance.
Along with narrative features distinguished by a mesmerizing combination of spiritual rebellion and cosmic slapstick, Herzog has forged a parallel career as a nonfiction filmmaker. Such brilliant, off-kilter documentaries as GRIZZLY MAN and ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD embrace life at its most apocalyptic extremes. Herzog himself is a presence in many of these films, though not an intrusive one; his curiosity and eye for the unusual only serve to draw the audience closer to the subject at hand.
So it is with INTO THE INFERNO, in which the director travels with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer to hot spots around the globe to look at life in the shadow of active volcanos. He emerges with spectacular footage of little-seen natural phenomena, as one would expect of any great documentarian, but there is more - a strange, haunting vision of the universe that could only come from Werner Herzog.
Series compiled by Gwen Deglise, program notes by Dennis Bartok, William Boodell and John Hagelston.