It is easy to envy anyone who has the chance to converse with legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog on social and cultural matters. Sadly, this DVD will not inspire much envy – if anything, it will inspire astonishment over wasted opportunities and woefully inadequate presentation.
This offering, which was shot at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia on October 25, 2007, features Herzog standing around talking with Karen Beckman, the Jaffe Associate Professor of the History of Art and the Director of the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. And, yes, I mean standing – Herzog and Beckman literally stand in front of a room of people and talk to each other for about an hour.
Too much of the conversation is fairly bizarre – Beckman pokes after Herzog’s views on extra-terrestrials (he insists flights across the universe are impossible), television (he hates how commercials break the narrative flow of programming), Fred Astaire (Herzog praises the star’s “incredibly stupid” face and his disconnection from reality) and the use of flight as a metaphoric symbol in his films (Herzog acknowledges it is a metaphoric symbol in his films).
Throughout the conversation, Herzog appears slightly bored and indifferent, and who can blame him? Clearly, he had nothing to do with this DVD’s production values, which are strictly at the public access level (complete with the harsh spotlight shining smack on Herzog’s head). The only lesson Herzog addicts gain from this offering is how not to interview Herzog.