My annual Thanksgiving trip to Tampa included a special pilgrimage this year to the University of South Florida's Interdisciplinary Science Department for a special (and free!) presentation from the seeker and purveyor of Ecstatic truth himself, Werner Herzog. The event was sponsored by USF's Department of World Languages and the German Consulate of Miami, and included a screening of Herzog's latest release, Into the Abyss, and was followed by a lengthy Q&A session that provided an insightful look into Herzog's process in making Abyss, which delightfully veered into such unexpected topics as his recent foray into acting (a "bad guy" opposite Tom Cruise--a role he feels suits him well), his obliviousness to the music of The Talking Heads, and his deep dislike for rooms full of Wisconsin housewives doing yoga.
|A packed house for|
"An Afternoon with Werner Herzog" at USF
|Michael Perry - Executed on death row, Huntsville, TX, July 1, 2010|
for the murder of 3 people
|Wulf Hein and Werner Herzog shooting Cave of Forgotten Dreams|
Though his USF appearance did lead him a bit toward indulging in his pop-Herzog persona ("Pop-zog"?), there seemed to be more of a tendency in the questioning toward trying to tie his films together thematically or stylistically, which Herzog immediately denied as facile "film school" rhetoric. When asked about the work contributed by David Byrne on the score of Into the Abyss, he informed us that he did not know who this "David Bird" was, which prompted an exasperated shout from an audience member seated on the floor behind me: "The TALKing HEADS!"; Herzog did eventually recognize the musical contribution of Mark Di Gli Antonio to the film (though I'm guessing Werner is not a big Soul Coughing fan). Into the Abyss does, in fact, greatly benefit from the contribution of both Byrne and De Gli Antonio, creating a more seamless meld of sound and image than many of Herzog's pictures, only occasionally allowing the music to be the aggressor. And, as I started to get at in my previous Ecstatic article on the film, Abyss is important as an antidote to the trivialization of death and murder that occurs every night on TV shows with some of the highest viewership in the country, from "Law and Order" to "America's Most Wanted." Herzog's scoring choices, the scant but effective moments of visual poetry he achieves in the film, and the choices he makes in the editing (a process, he confided in us, that got he and his editor smoking again) are what set Abyss apart from the commercial television treatment of these same types of crimes.
|A Texas Death Row Graveyard - Into the Abyss|
|Encounters at the End of the World|
|Into the Abyss|
Tampa hook-ups for this event. (Now, go READ!)