Docufiction in Werner Herzog’s Recent Films

Ever since his early career in the heydays of the new German cinema, Werner Herzog’s fiction and documentary films have centred on characters whose actions, usually undertaken in hostile environments in the most remote corners of the world and under extreme circumstances, are informed by ideas testing the boundaries between creative imagination and grandiose illusion. Even if such characters as Stroszek, Aguirre, or Fitzcarraldo incidentally overstep the hitherto questionable distinction between bold action and madness, they do not do so without reflecting on the surrounding world and its institutions. At the same time, Herzog’s films tend to reflect on their own production, on the very distinction between fiction and documentary, and on the impact of film and media generally.

In this presentation Gerrits looked specifically at Herzog’s reflections on docufiction and digital media in his documentaries from the past decade, in particular, Grizzly Man (2005), Encounters at the End of the World (2007) and Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). He discussed Pushing the viewer’s imagination by recording places marked by the extreme — be it in terms of spatial remoteness (Antarctica’s underwater world), temporal distance (Chauvet’s cave paintings), or danger for life (a grizzly bear habitat) — Herzog explores new ways in which cameras capture the real with equipment ranging from scientific capture devices or 3D recording machines to DIY cams.

Jeroen Gerrits is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Binghamton University (SUNY). His research and teaching centre on the philosophy of film and new media, with special interests in world cinema, complex narrative, and digital aesthetics. He is working on a book manuscript entitled Cinematic Skepticism: Film Philosophy in World Cinema and Docufiction,” which features a chapter on Herzog.

Monday, July 13, 2015 – 6 PM


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