9/5/14: Happy Birthday, Mr. Herzog! Midday on Film Celebrates the Madness and Genius of Bavaria’s Favorite Cinematic Son

[NOTE: If you missed the show, you can still listen to the podcast.]

Herzog and Kinski Cobra Verde
Director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski taking the dynamics of their relationship to a whole new level on the set of “Cobra Verde” (1987)

Born in 1942 in Munich, Werner Herzog grew up in a remote Bavarian mountain village (you can learn more about his early life in interviews that aired recently on NPR’s Fresh Air), far removed from the battle-scarred landscape of post-war Germany, as well as from all forms of technology. And yet by 19 he had moved beyond these simple beginnings to make his first film (a short entitled Herakles). 10 years later, in 1972, he established his international reputation with his third feature-length fiction film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, his first collaboration with volatile German actor Klaus Kinski, with whom he would make 4 more movies: Nosferatu the VampyreWoyzeckFitzcarraldo and Cobra Verde. Starting in the late 1980s, Herzog began to focus much more on documentary storytelling (though he had always made documentaries previously, and would continue to make fiction films, going forwards), and now has a body of work that includes such nonfiction masterpieces as Little Dieter Needs to FlyGrizzly Man, the Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World and Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Regardless of genre or format, Herzog’s ongoing cinematic obsession has almost always been an exploration of the intersection of madness (or, at the very least, eccentricity) and genius (or, at the very least, creative yearnings), whether it be the story of a man dragging a 300-ton boat over a mountain in the Amazonian jungle (Fitzcarraldo) or of a wannabe animal rights activist being eaten alive by a bear (Grizzly Man). In some cases, the filmmaker’s methods have, themselves, replicated the mad genius of those of Herzog’s protagonists (the story of the filming of Fitzcarraldo, as profiled in Les Blank’s documentary Burden of Dreams, is at least as interesting as the movie, itself). Whatever one thinks of Herzog’s (very prolific) artistic output, he is undeniably passionate about the medium of cinema, and one of the great directors of the second half of the 20th century and first half of the 21st.

So join us on Friday, September 5, as Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed – Chair of Film/Video at Stevenson University – celebrate the life and work of this great filmmaker on his 72nd birthday on Midday with Dan Rodricks, on WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore’s NPR News Station, during the second hour, 1-2pm.

If you can’t listen locally, you can live-stream the podcast.

And you can always download the podcast afterwards, either via iTunes or the Midday page.

Enjoy the show!

[Correction: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly identified the above photograph as being from the set of Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)]

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