What Werner Herzog and Peter Kubelka may have in common: addendum to Unsere Afrikareise

 I just read an incendiary article by Lewis Beale for The Reeler accusing Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn for falling into the same trap of racist solipsism that’s befallen many a Vietnam War movie, including The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now.  There have been some thoughtful responses to it, positive and negative on both the original post and on The House Next Door.  I offered my feedback on the original post (with a plug for Ham Tran’s wonderful recent release Journey from the Fall as a proposed corrective to the problems Beale is talking about).

I came away thinking about not just the racism of Hollywood Vietnam War movies but the more pervasive issue of the  Colonialist Romantic streak that makes me groan at so many Herzog movies, even ones I find hypnotically alluring, like Aguirre, the Wrath of God, as well as their Hollywood counterparts like the incredibly vexing Apocalypse Now.  Herzog will do all he can to critique whatever lunatic dreamer Klaus Kinski is playing, as well as real life counterparts like Timothy Treadwell, but the fact is that he is at bottom fascinated with these nutjobs and more interested in what makes them tick than in the collateral damage they inflict on others, particularly indigenous peoples.   The most interest that a Herzog can stir up in the Other is in its innate exoticism, but rarely engage with the Other as an equal human being, just a bystander or accessory on the road to the White man’s extreme self-actualization.   I’ll credit Kubelka in that he actually acknowledges his own similar impulse in the way he regards Africans, without coming up with an alternative.  But it still just isn’t enough…

Author: alsolikelife

This is my pet project

  • alsolikelife

    Thanks for your comments Chris. You’re certainly not alone in your defense as others made similar rebuttals to that article (nothing like the blogosphere to allow for instant criticism to go with instant gratification). I hope the writer doesn’t get spooked from writing any more reviews as he took a gutsy position. Even if he didn’t think it through as much as some would have liked, it got people (certainly myself) thinking.

    To be honest I still haven’t seen the film, as I’m not sure what it is I’d be missing. Did you find it too mainstream? I read some reviews that asserted as much. Currently I’m more inclined to see ONCE, LADY CHATTERLY or even THE SIMPSONS MOVIE.

  • http://http:/www.chrisknipp.com Chris Knipp

    Of course its good that the Reeler reviewer arouses people, but that piece could be seen as an overreaction. I think RESCUE DAWN has enraged some passionate Herzogians (and will continue to do so) because it’s only in subtle details, which I briefly mentioned (its lack of any obvious uplift or payoffs) that it differs from the mainstream. It’s kind of a strange case, if you want to know the truth. I’m not sure that I find Herzog’s failure to be political offensive, as some do. I’d consider it honorable commercial work. But I’m not a passionate Herzogian. I don’t know about THE SIMPSONS, but I would recommend ONCE and LADY CHATTERLY, both of which I liked very much, over RESCUE DAWN.

  • Katelynsukau rBlaylock

      The most interest that a Herzog can stir up in the Other is in its
    innate exoticism, but rarely engage with the Other as an equal human
    being, just a bystander or accessory on the road to the White man’s
    extreme self-actualization. 

    http://www.gt-events.com/