Werner Herzog Narrates Pokémon Go: Imagines It as a Murderous Metaphor for the Battle to Survive

Like film­mak­er Wern­er Her­zog, I have exist­ed in near total igno­rance of Poké­mon Go, a vir­tu­al real­i­ty game that pur­ports to get play­ers on their feet and out in the real world.

With­out a smartphone—an item Wern­er refus­es to own for “cul­tur­al reasons”—one can­not par­tic­i­pate.

I have a smart­phone, but my data plan is so small, I’m afraid I’d blow it all in hot pur­suit of a Bul­basaur, what­ev­er the hell that is. My kids nev­er got into Poké­mon and thus, nei­ther did I. Reports that some car­toon was caus­ing seizures in Japan­ese child view­ers was my intro­duc­tion to the world of Poké­mon. Epilep­sy runs in the fam­i­ly. It wasn’t hard for me to steer clear.

I have noticed a large num­ber of Face­book friends prais­ing the game’s non-vir­tu­al aspects. Their chil­dren are emerg­ing into the light, gam­bol­ing through parks and pub­lic squares, find­ing com­mon ground with neigh­bors and oth­er play­ers.

Does Wern­er have Face­book friends?

I think we all know the answer to that.

We both got an unex­pect­ed crash course in Poké­mon Go, when Wern­er was inter­viewed by The Verge’s Emi­ly Yoshi­da about his online Mas­ter­Class in film­mak­ing and Lo and Behold, his new doc­u­men­tary about the tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion.

Yoshi­da explained the Poké­mon Go phe­nom­e­non to him thus­ly:

It’s basi­cal­ly the first main­stream aug­ment­ed real­i­ty pro­gram. It’s a game where the entire world is mapped and you walk around with the GPS on your phone. You walk around in the real world and can catch these lit­tle mon­sters and col­lect them. And every­body is play­ing it.

Her­zog was most inter­est­ed in what hap­pens when the Poké­mon appear in the vir­tu­al crosshairs:

When two per­sons in search of a Poké­mon clash at the cor­ner of Sun­set and San Vicente is there vio­lence? Is there mur­der?… Do they bite each oth­er’s hands? Do they punch each oth­er?

He declined Yoshida’s offer to bor­row her cell phone in order to try the game out, at which point Slate’s Daniel Hub­bard and For­rest Wick­man stepped in, cut­ting togeth­er footage of the game and the ani­mat­ed series with some of the most mem­o­rable nar­ra­tion from Herzog’s oevure.

Seen through the above lens, Poké­mon Go becomes a reflec­tion of our ongo­ing bat­tle for sur­vival, rife with for­ni­ca­tion, asphyx­i­a­tion, and rot. The trees and birds are in mis­ery, and the pen­guins are insane.

It almost makes me want to play! Though in truth, I think anoth­er of Herzog’s activ­i­ties —ven­tur­ing into the coun­try­side “to look a chick­en in the eye with great intensity”—is more my speed.

Read the com­plete inter­view on The Verge.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wern­er Her­zog Offers 24 Pieces of Film­mak­ing & Life Advice

Wern­er Herzog’s Rogue Film School: Apply & Learn the Art of Gueril­la Film­mak­ing & Lock-Pick­ing

Start Your Day with Wern­er Her­zog Inspi­ra­tional Posters

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her lat­est script, Fawn­book, is avail­able in a dig­i­tal edi­tion from Indie The­ater Now.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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