1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Films in review

February 4, 2010

Film director Werner Herzog has made his home and his career in Hollywood. He'll soon head to his native Germany to serve as president of the jury for the Berlinale - where he'll watch far more films than he's used to.

Werner Herzog
Herzog still feels a strong connection to GermanyImage: DPA

Herzog claims that he normally only watches two to three films per year. He made this surprising statement shortly after being announced jury president of the 2010 Berlinale. But how could someone who so rarely sets foot in a movie theater end up in this position? And why does he pass on seeing so many movies? Probably because he is very busy making them himself.

At home in America

Werner Herzog lives in Los Angeles, where he churns out one film after another. But just a few years ago, no one would have expected him to ever get this far. After all, his counterparts - German filmmakers Wim Wenders and Volker Schloendorff - gave up on their Hollywood careers a long time ago and have since returned to their homeland.

Munich-born Herzog, on the other hand, has taken a step forward in his career and now makes big-budget movies in the US, working with A-list stars like Christian Bale and Nicolas Cage. Herzog has never been a stranger to success, though; he is credited with injecting new spirit into German cinema with his first films in the late 1960s.

A scene from "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"
Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" stars Nicolas CageImage: image.net

After that he relocated five times with his favorite actor, Klaus Kinski, in order to tackle daring film projects in places like South America. His film "Fitzcarraldo" has been made the subject of various books and documentaries, and his 1979 film "Nosferatu the Vampyre" has been hailed as one of the greatest achievements of New German Cinema.

Following these cinematic conquests, Herzog temporarily withdrew from the big screen, perhaps partly due to the death of Klaus Kinski. Over the next few years, he produced unconventional documentaries and staged operas.

It wasn't until just a few years ago that Herzog claimed a real foothold in the US. This is not a well-known fact in Germany, though - maybe because some of Herzog's American-made films did not make it into German cinemas.

"I never forgot about Germany," said Herzog at one stage. "But - I don't know why - Germany forgot about me."

He has repeatedly emphasized how close he still feels to his homeland: "I have left my country and live in Los Angeles today. And I make films in Antarctica, in South America, in the USA. But despite this I have never abandoned my culture."

Herzog's Americana

Based on true events, Herzog's 2007 film "Rescue Dawn" tells the story of a US soldier with a German background who is shot down and imprisoned in Laos during the Vietnam War. Then there are also his more recent American films - "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" and "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done" - both of which premiered at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.

A scene from "Fitzcarraldo" featuring actor Klaus Kinski
Herzog's favorite actor, Klaus Kinski, worked with him on several filmsImage: Kinowelt/Arthaus

Whoever has had the chance to meet Werner Herzog at a film festival or to interview him, knows that this filmmaker is also a great entertainer. He likes to surprise people, is keen to go against the grain, and does not like to be categorized.

The audience at the 2010 Berlinale festival should also be prepared for surprises when the awards are handed out on February 20 under Werner Herzog's presiding eye.

The Berlinale runs from February 11-21.

Author: Jochen Kuerten (ew)

Editor: Kate Bowen