Werner Herzog: Of Walking in Ice

December 5, 2016

download51irwnzw-l-_ac_us160_I’ve been enthralled by Herzog‘s films ever since I saw The Enigma of Kasper Hauser when it first came out. This book is as strange as any of his films. In winter 1974 he decided to walk from Munich to Paris to see the dying film director Lotte Eisner, convinced that this act would keep her alive…

He walks, sometimes along roads, sometimes forest tracks, sometimes across fields. He has to cross mountains. At times he has a map, at other times he relies on his compass (until he loses it) and various inklings and intuitions. He doesn’t carry much gear with him, and either sleeps rough or breaks into uninhabited buildings and houses for a night’s sleep. And he describes his journey, after a fashion. He meets some people, though his increasingly dishevelled appearance causes some to give him a wide berth.

The book and the journey match the man and the imagination; I admire the singleness of purpose and the drive to accomplish the task. The writing itself isn’t particularly brilliant: the terrain is described, but mostly it’s the sheer awfulness of the weather – although it’s late November/early December, the weather is untypically harsh, with almost constant driving rain and snowstorms. He is tempted to give up more than once! And he shares his thoughts as he walks, and these occasionally, imperceptibly drift into surreal flights of fantasy of the sort we are used to meeting in his films – think Fata Morgana.

I’m glad I read it; I don’t think I learned anything more about Herzog, though; I’d have liked a map so I could track his route, being too lazy to get out my road maps…


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