Werner Herzog – A Guide for The Perplexed by Paul Cronin

Book Review by Alan Bett | 01 Sep 2014
Book title: Werner Herzog – A Guide for the Perplexed
Author: Paul Cronin

As one might expect from a 493-page conversation with the filmmaker Werner Herzog, the most explosive moments come in the form of confrontations with his cultural bedfellow and bête noir, the late actor Klaus Kinski. It’s a shame, then, when he dispels the well-worn myth of directing him at gunpoint during Fitzcarraldo, as it makes a glorious and accurate metaphor. Kinski was a histrionic man for whom the camera was always running as he sashayed around the jungle in tailored fatigues by YSL. Herzog’s danger existed in reality, behind the lens – a promise to shoot Kinski if he abandoned set.

These pages speak his Teutonic drawl so clearly — there is no quickening of pace even as he drops in the most extreme detail: contradicting his dismissal of his and Kinski’s love/hate relationship with the admission that ‘at one point I did seriously plan to firebomb him in his home.’ Their relationship spices the mix of this book rather than overpowers it and there is much more of interest, including rogue theories on guerrilla filmmaking in reference to his maverick works.

This can be an unwieldy tome and difficult to navigate. Cronin asks the right questions and edits well but subject headings are loose and it meanders as conversations do, which makes this awkward as a reference resource. A Guide for the Perplexed is more an opportunity to uncover gems of insight and moments of madness, a gaze into the abyss. [Alan Bett]

Out now, published by Faber & Faber Film, RRP £30.00