Herzog, What Have Ye Done?

April 21, 2010 — 2 Comments

Audience Member to Herzog: “Did your executive producer Mr Lynch have an influence on the scene in the snow with the short person, cause you know, it seems so Lynchian?”

Herzog: “Of course not. Not Lynchian, Herzogian! I made a film with an entire midget cast back in 1968, Lynch I guess was not even born yet!”

Herzog’s new film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is due for release in November later this year in Australia (finally!) So I thought I’d ramble about Herzog for a while, considering I’m investigating documentary and he reigns in as one of the most prolific documentary filmmakers ever! My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is a film about a mentally disturbed man who believes himself to be in a Sophocles play and, accordingly, slaughters his mother with a sword. It was realeased in December in the US.

Herzog is the brand of filmmaker who truly engages with that particular spirit of storytelling so many others can only philosophise about, talk about or perhaps pull off once or twice in their entire career. Herzog is often associated with the German New Wave and filmmaking peers such as Wim Wenders, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and collaborators such as actor Klaus Kinski. The associations go further as Herzog made his mark with extreme guerilla-style filmmaking treks into the Amazon and into remote Northern Africa to create such masterpieces as Fata Morgana (1971), Fitzgeraldo (1982) and Cobra Verde (1987).

These associations date back to the early 60’s and mark only the beginning of Herzogs influence and relevance. In the late 70’s and 80’s Herzog became known in the US as his cult status grew and he developed relationships and collaborations with important cinema figures such as Errol Morris. Herzog, according to legend, infact pushed Errol Morris into his first feature production via a direct challenge. The result being Gates of Heaven (1978), the start of a ground-breaking career, and short documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980), in which Werner lives up to his challenge: if Errol Morris actually gets around to producing a film, Werner will eat his shoe.

Such escapades have defined one of the most far-reaching and enigmatic film careers of the last 50 years and the new film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done looks to live up to such a reputation. A seemingly appropriate new collaboration has taken place as David Lynch has wandered into the Herzogian circle. Two masters of the surreal at work together, with actors Willem Dafoe and Michael Shannon to carry the performance, are poised to take us on a journey into what herzog describes as a film where, “the fear comes creaping up on you, and you don’t know where it comes from, an anonymous fear.”

Worth mentioning as well in anticipation of this film is collaboration with actor Michael Shannon. It seems that Michael Shannon has just emerged out of the shadows in the past few years to become one of the most notable talents on the block. I first saw him, or noticed him, in Bug (2006, William Friedkin) and then in Revolutionary Road (2009, Sam Mendes). Upon investigation it seems that Shannon has been around in support roles since the early 90’s. It is fair to say that in these more recent films Shannon has come to dominate the screen with an intensity and command comparable to any leading man. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Revolutionary Road, and it could be argued that he has made “a method out of playing the mentally troubled/troubling.”


2 responses to Herzog, What Have Ye Done?


    Finding relevant sites on this topic is sometimes hard to find. You did an excellent job covering the subject and I look forward to more posts from your site. Do you offer RSS Feeds or feedburner to get more content for our blogs?

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  1. The Contextualising Blog Post « A Blog by James Thompson - June 4, 2010

    […] shows where I found the advice and inspiration to move forwards in the planning of my project. Herzog, What Have Ye Done? This post reflects the more playful and personal interest side of the blog, and also how the blog […]

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