Legendary director, actor, author, and provocateur Werner Herzog has incalculably influenced contemporary cinema for decades. Until now there has been no sustained effort to gather and present a variety of diverse philosophical approaches to his films and to the thinking behind their creation. The Philosophy of Werner Herzog, edited by M. Blake Wilson and Christopher Turner, collects fourteen essays by professional philosophers and film theorists from around the globe, who explore the famed German auteur’s notions of “ecstatic truth” as opposed to “accountants’ truth,” his conception of nature and its penchant for “overwhelming and collective murder,” his controversial film production techniques, his debts to his philosophical and aesthetic forebears, and finally, his pointed objections to his would-be critics––including, among others, the contributors to this book themselves. By probing how Herzog’s thinking behind the camera is revealed in the action he captures in front of it, The Philosophy of Werner Herzog shines new light upon the images and dialog we see and hear on the screen by enriching our appreciation of a prolific––yet enigmatic––film artist.
M. Blake Wilson is assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Stanislaus.
Christopher Turner is assistant professor of philosophy at California State University, Stanislaus.
Chapter 1. I Am What My Films Are: Listening to Herzog’s Ecstatic, Essayistic Pronouncements
Chapter 2. Herzog’s Sublime and Ecstatic Truth: From Burke’s Physiological Aesthesis to the Dionysian Unveiling
Patricia Castello Branco
Chapter 3. The Conquest of Uselessness as a Practice of Film and Thought
Chapter 4. Filmmaking and Philosophizing Against the Grain of Theory: Herzog and Wittgenstein
Chapter 5. Nature and Meaning in Grizzly Man
Chapter 6. Reflections from the Abyss: Herzog’s Philosophy of Death
M. Blake Wilson
Chapter 7. Fake News and Ecstatic Truths: Alternative Facts in Lessons of Darkness
Chapter 8. The Great Ecstasy of Werner Herzog: Truth, Heidegger, Apocalypse
Ian Alexander Moore
Chapter 9. The Film Artist as Discoverer of the Marvels of Everyday Life: Toward a Kracauerian
Reading of Werner Herzog
Chapter 10. Werner Herzog and Documentary as a Revelatory Practice
Chapter 11. On Experience and Illumination: Werner Herzog’s Dialectical Relationship with Society
Chapter 12. Herzog’s Philosophy of Masculinism
Chapter 13. Herzog’s Post-Tragic Aesthetic: A Kierkegaardian Perspective
Anthony Eagan and Simon Thornton
Chapter 14. Werner Herzog on Circles, Chickens and Impotency
About the Contributors
For this title in the "Philosophy of Popular Culture” series, Wilson and Turner bring together an international team of philosophy and film theory scholars to discuss Herzog and his films as they relate to the philosophical writings of Burke, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and film theorist Siegfried Kracauer. A variety of topics are covered, including some that are unusual, e.g., Herzog’s philosophy of masculinism, alternative facts and fake news, and the filmmaker’s philosophy of death. The first essay provides a helpful overview of recent scholarship. The diverse perspectives presented make this volume a welcome complement to Richard Thomas Eldridge’s Werner Herzog: Filmmaker and Philosopher. This volume certainly sheds new light on Herzog, but will be most useful to those who are already familiar with him, philosophy, and film theory. Recommended.
[I]n examining the thought both behind his films and his words, this becomes a fascinating Werner Herzog book.
"Even with so much already said and written (some of it by Werner, despite himself), this book shows that there is much left to think about Herzog’s films, even while he warns us against thinking about them and then abandons us, leaving town for his next assignment."
"Approaching Herzog’s work from a wide variety of philosophical viewpoints––from Burke, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein to Baudrillard, Heidegger, Adorno, and Kierkegaard––this volume offers an international cast of contributors who keep Herzog’s films themselves deftly in focus. In doing so, they provide welcome illumination of Herzog’s practices of filmmaking, his stylized self-stagings, and his astonishing achievements."
"This outstanding collection of essays brings together a diverse group of philosophers and film scholars to tease out the philosophical significance of the work of a filmmaker who famously scoffs at scholarly interpretations of his films. Whether Herzog would approve of their efforts is unknown, but they have produced an indispensable “viewer’s guide” for anyone interested in thinking more deeply about the themes of his films, such as the nature of truth, madness, and the shadow that death casts over our lives. It will enhance not only its readers’ understanding of Herzog’s films, but their enjoyment of them as well."
"Ecstatic truth and the sublime infuse the films of Werner Herzog. But what does that mean? The answer is in your hands. Engaging with the work of Burke, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein, this book is essential reading for the philosophically inclined Herzog fan."