Werner Herzog David Overby - Essay

David Overby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Herzog has claimed that he wanted [Woyzeck] to look as primitive as the main character, but the film looks not so much simple and primitive as badly made. The images have an inexpensive flat quality, and the editing of the film often ruins what magic there is in the images. The murder sequence in which Woyzeck stabs his prostitute mistress is filmed in extreme slow motion and is hypnotic at first. Unfortunately Herzog rather pointlessly cuts away for a moment to a dance hall, and when he returns to the murder the emotions first engendered have melted away. Woyzeck suffers from the same problems as Nosferatu: lack of life, a lack of atmosphere and far too many rather pretentious speeches (one delivered straight into the camera) about death and eternity. There is by now little doubt that Herzog is a major talent, but after the last few films there would also seem to be little doubt that he has hit a dry period. It may well be that literary adaptations and "stars" get in the way of Herzog's unique vision. (p. 34)

David Overby, "'Unclean, Unclean': A Report from Cannes," in Take One (copyright © 1979 by Unicorn Publishing Corp.), Vol. 7, No. 8, August, 1979, pp. 33-35, 42.∗