Παρασκευή, 31 Ιουλίου 2009

LESSONS OF DARKNESS (1992, WERNER HERZOG)



Some eastern sea that lay heavily in the dawn, attended in its far horizon by titanic walls of smoke and crowned by spires of fire and hot gouts of burning oil arching in the air. This deceptive sea reflecting the sky above is made of crude oil. Notable enfant terrible of New German Cinema and devoted documentarian of man's quixotic struggles against a world that bears them false witness, Werner Herzog mounts his camera on a helicopter and takes us through the war-ravaged desolate landscapes of Kuwait's oil fields. Yet oddly enough and perhaps contrary to what anyone would assume, there's no politics involved, no topical Gulf War content through which to see the destruction. This is pure Apocalypse stripped of all context and left to sear its awe-inspiring images into the viewer's memory. These oil fires the result of the scorched earth policy of Iraqi military forces retreating from Kuwait in 1991 after conquering the country but being driven out by Coalition military forces. In a truly apocalyptic manner, Herzog simply invites us to "come and see" the works of man. Reciting short passages from the book of the Apocalypse as sweeping aerial shot after sweeping aerial shot expose a land ravaged by war, the earth tarred far as the eye can see, a vast steppe of black tending to the rim of the world, the skies charred by enormous fires and billows of smoke. This is really a documentary on the apocalypse, on some end to the world, the Gulf War a paradigm of all wars to end it with. A truly awe-inspiring spectacle of destruction and abandonment that mirrors man's insubstantiality when measured up against nature in his own power to destroy it. Not a documentary in the traditional sense but mostly a plot less 60 minute expedition in the deep recesses of a wartorn desert that lets the grandeur of its visuals see it through with Kubrickian aplomb. In the end the workers reignite some of the oil wells they previously extinguished. Herzog muses in his voice-over: "Now they are content. Now they have something to extinguish again".



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