Werner Herzog Tony Rayns - Essay

Tony Rayns

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Werner Herzog's [Fata Morgana] takes the reductio ad absurdum narrative patterns of his other films to their logical conclusion by dispensing with narrative altogether…. Individually, many of the shots have a great formal beauty; and the visual juxtaposition of elements from both Western and indigenous cultures (huge aircraft touching down and cadavers of animals decaying where they dropped; distant oil flares and decrepit shanty housing) yields frequent surrealist shocks in line with André Breton's most polemic requirements. Herzog makes no attempt to structure this material through montage; the film has no visual rhythm, and no cut infers any direct meaning. Rather, he adopts a mock-heroic form that divides the film into three sections: The Creation, Paradise, and The Golden Age. Each is accompanied by an occasional voice-over narration, which alters its stance as the film proceeds from aloof omnipotence to bitter engagement. Just as Stroszek in Lebenszeichen [Signs of Life] disappears from the film at the midpoint, his paroxysm visible only through its effects, so here the entire film is 'effects', visual evidence to the aftermath of some previous action. The first section, composed chiefly of mirage-like stares into the desert void and racing aerial shots of the landscape slipping past, is accompanied by an account of the Creation (supposedly drawn from ancient Persian myth, but probably as spurious as the narrator's log in...

(The entire section is 549 words.)