Fitzcarraldo, Klaus Kinski, SET Collective, Werner Herzog

Why Werner Herzog and Fitzcarraldo? My latest book(let) for the SET collective

By @SimonCocking

This coming weekend, if the boats are running, I may get to say a few words at the launch of the latest SET collective book(let). This time it is featuring Werner Herzog, and Fitzcarraldo in particular. This was a particular labour of love for me.

I was happy to write about Werner, and his tortured relationship with his muse for five movies, Klaus Kinski. The result is great art. All of the movies are pretty good to brilliant. Cobra Verde is a little crazed and disjointed, with part in Brazil, and then later moving to West Africa. However it enables the creation of some visually stunning scenes in the mud fort, with 1000’s of young girl warriors. Singing directly at the camera, with their scarified ? decorated bodies. Kinski looks almost demented with his straggly blond hair. Ultimately concluding with him lashing out at a far too heavy immovable boat on the water’s edge.

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Fitzcarraldo had elements of personal family history as my dad raved about  it, and then, in researching the article for the SET piece, I rewatched the movie again with my boys this Easter just passed. They dipped in and out of it, but I felt by even exposing them to it, at age 12, it might leave some fragmentary trace in their mental visual history. Several years earlier, when working through, what was then, the complete works of Werner H, we had watched a number of his movies with our kids. The one about the ‘White diamond’, the airship over the Amazon rainforest, had been a beautiful one to watch with the kids. Similarly his ones about being under the icecaps, any of his movies where it was more about the nature and the music basically. Obviously with Herzog you never quite know when it is going to turn dark, but back then this was all via subtitles and the kids couldn’t read so well then.


I had set myself the task to watch every Herzog movie, documentary and short that I could get my hands on. My job had moved into terminal decline, 4 bosses in 4 months was a pretty clear indication it was an awful job that was never going to get any better. I used my time at work to frantically apply for as many jobs as possible, over 200, clocking up almost 50 interviews by the end too. Many resulted in close misses, reaching the last 2, or offered but funding severed, or finally, the ultimate kicker, only a maternity cover position that would have negated the redundancy payment coming round the corner. So, with the feeling of being on the Titanic and wanting to do more than re-arrange the chairs, I came up with my Herzog project. Looking back now, and considering the size of some subsequent projects I have taken on, it seems almost quaint this was the challenge I set myself. However I now see sometimes we need to find a small challenge first to realise and remind and re-inspire ourselves that we are capable of doing so much more than we realise if we are just willing to leave our comfort zone. As is the case for so many of us, redundancy was the spark that lit the gunpower.


For this reason it is now with great pleasure, 5 years later, to see this book(let) beautifully laid out and coming out in print this weekend. It’s fun to be here, hopefully with the same 2 boys that watched it with me, in memory of the one who introduced me to it. I’m pretty sure Werner would have been pleased. He created his own film company to get his first movies made, and then just kept going. Not needing to sell the idea to anyone else to get it made. Rather begging, borrowing or stealing to realise the vision in his head and bring it to the big screen for us to enjoy and celebrate.

Thanks to Werner, saluted with a German beer hopefully.



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