I’m not surprised that filmmaker Werner Herzog hates the commodification of the word “adventure,” when he’s spent over four decades courting it in the most classic sense. In the New York Public Library Conversation Portrait above (one of a series that includes the John Waters profile we brought you earlier this week), the venerable director describes the sort of childhood that could cause one to take a dim view of packaged tours masquerading as adventure.
After the infant Herzog survived a bombing that covered him in rubble, his mother, understandably fearing for her children’s safety, fled to the mountains. The remoteness of his upbringing sheltered him in some ways (“I did not even know that cinema existed until I was 11”) and not, in others. (“At age four, I was in possession of a functioning submachine gun and my brother had a hand grenade.”)
When he says that hunger was a prevailing theme, I dare you to disagree.
I’m likewise inclined to pay attention when he asserts that the modern obsession with technology is gobbling resources at a disastrous pace, and that thousands of world languages will have disappeared for good by 2050.
Dire predictions, and yet he fills me with cheer every time he opens his mouth. I swear it’s not just that marvelous, much imitated voice. It’s also a comfort to know we’ve got a prolific artist remaining at his outpost from a sense of duty, gloomy yet stout as a child in his belief that an ecstasy of truth lies within human grasp.