Walking with Werner Herzog

On Film / Short Takes — Feb 2, 2016
werner herzog

In November of 1974, German filmmaker Werner Herzog began walking from Munich to Paris. He had just learned that his friend and mentor, the film historian Lotte Eisner, was gravely ill and had been hospitalized in Paris, and Herzog decided to make the journey in a quixotic attempt to thwart her death. “I set off . . . in full faith,” he wrote in his diary, “believing that she would stay alive if I came on foot.” After the trip, Herzog’s written account of the three-week, five-hundred-mile trek was published as a book, Of Walking in Ice (Vom Gehen im Eis). Long out of print, the filmmaker’s journal was recently reissued by the University of Minnesota Press. And now, film scholar and author Noah Isenberg has undertaken a new examination of Herzog’s existential travelogue in a review for the Nation magazine.

Although much of Herzog’s account concerns his deepening feelings of isolation and loneliness, Isenberg writes that the “musings on his odyssey veer from the prosaic (his subsistence on tangerines and cartons of milk, his desperate search for shelter . . . his blisters and swelling feet) to the deeper questions of history and memory.” And, as is perhaps to be expected, the book is littered with what Isenberg refers to as “Herzogisms,” which include such enigmatic declarations as, “He who has no burning tongue has burning soles.” For more on the story of Herzog’s walk (which Isenberg concludes may be considered “a more extreme version” of Herzog’s “attempts at cinematic salvation”), read the review in full over at the Nation’s website.