Werner Herzog on God, Phone Books, and Albino Crocodiles

A great little interview on The Colbert Report with our beloved Werner Herzog. I was […]

David Zahl / 6.17.11

A great little interview on The Colbert Report with our beloved Werner Herzog. I was fortunate enough to see his new documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and it is very much worth your time, especially if you can see it in 3-D. The documentary explores the Chauvet cave in Southern France, which contains the oldest known paintings on the planet – by far (ca. 28,000 B.C.). And it does so with characteristic Herzog-ness. As a sidenote, Herzog mentions the religious aspect of the discovery in the interview – all signs point to the caves having served a religious function – and makes a joke about the cave-dwellers inventing God. We of course might see it as encouraging evidence of an unchanging spiritual reality, of our relation to the divine being a fundamental drive, who knows, maybe even something we were created for…

A couple of transcribed quotes, after the video, ht WRB:

Herzog: “In Cave of Forgotten Dreams there’s a postscript when all of a sudden you see radioactive albino crocodiles in the film. I called the producer from when I was shooting and he was in a pet store in Vancouver and just had bought a cage for a hamster and he said ‘I just bought a cage of a hamster’ and I said ‘I’m filming albino mutant crocodiles, radioactive crocodiles.’ And I hear this clatter. He dropped the cage! And said, ‘you are shooting WHAT?’ And I said I am shooting albino crocodiles, and they will be in the film.”

Herzog: “You see, if I were only fact based… you see, the book of books then, in literature, would be the Manhattan phone directory. Four million entries, everything correct. But it dusts out of my ears and I do not know: do they dream at night? Does Mr. Jonathan Smith cry in his pillow at night? We do not know anything when we check all the correct all the correct entries in the phone directory. I’m not this kind of a filmmaker.”