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on 21 March 2005
Herzog is without question, one of the defining figures of 20th century filmmaking, easily deserving of his reputation as an eccentric genius and practitioner of cinematic poetry, and of course, more than worthy of his creative association with people like Bergman, Dryer, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, and so on. His films seem absolutely alien when compared to the work of both his contemporaries and those that have followed in his wake- with no filmmaker since managing to perfectly pull off his trademark combination of surreal stylisation with moments of almost documentary realism - whilst his use of landscape and location was always as important to the feel of his films as both the narrative and characterisations. In his most celebrated film, Fitzcarraldo, he created his own parallels with the central character - by undertaking the mammoth task of hauling a giant steamship over a foreboding, Peruvian mountain terrain - which, would not only become the vision of his cinematic obsessions made real, but would also give birth to a number of rumours, legends and falsities that have arisen around the filmmaker throughout his career.
In this book, Herzog and interviewer Paul Cronin attempt to dispel some of these myths, whilst simultaneously creating some new ones of their own (with Herzog being the living proof that truth really is stranger than fiction), with the pair casting a critical eye over the filmmaker's career, from his first film Signs of Life in the late 1960's, to his more recent endeavour, 2001's Invincible, as well as discussing his childhood in the secluded Bavaria countryside, his years as a globetrotting youth, his volatile relationship with the actor Klaus Kinski and his thoughts and ruminations on life, work, travel and cinema. As a subject, Herzog is fascinating... after all, this is the man who made a film about rebellious dwarfs (Even Dwarfs Started Small), cast a former mental patient in one of the greatest films ever made (The Enigma of Kasper Hauser), filmed on an active volcano (La Soufrière), hypnotised an entire cast in order to visualise their escalating madness (Heart of Glass), remade one of the all-time-classic German expressionist pictures in full colour, and with Kinski (Nosferatu - pre-dating Gus Van Sant's similarly post-modernist update of Hitchcock's Psycho) and once made a bet with fellow filmmaker Errol Morris about the documenting of an American pet cemetery, which culminated in Herzog having to eat his shoe (Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe).
He's certainly an unconventional fellow here, dispelling the auteur theory and notions of art to instead talk about cinema as a craft or athletic event (Herzog's "utopian film school" would entail boxing classes, cross-country running and a 500 mile trek cross-country) and yet, despite such seemingly provocative diversions, he remains an intelligent, humorous and exhilarating host throughout. The best and most interesting chapters of the book are obviously the ones that look at his most famous works, films, for example, like the classic adventure Aguirre, Wrath of God, the experimental Heart of Glass, the heartbreaking Kasper Hauser, the touching (and strangely iconic) comic-melodrama Strozseck and the much misunderstood Nosferatu. The longest discussion in the book is obviously the conversations about Fitzcarraldo, which is probably Herzog's most archetypal (and certainly most controversial) work, although the discussions here tend to focus more on Kinski's erratic behaviour, the difficulties surrounding the location and the subsequent negative press (Herzog wrongly being accused of putting lives in danger), as opposed to the technical and ideological merits of the film. It's also nice to see lesser-know Herzog works getting some attention, notably his first two films Signs of Life and the hypnotic Fata Morgana - which certainly set the template for his future works - not to mention his great documentaries like The Land of Silence and Darkness, The Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner and Little Dieter Needs to Fly.
Other films are slightly glossed over - particularly the problematic Where the Green Ants Dream (which Herzog considers too "preachy"), the much criticised Cobra Verde (his last film with Kinski) and the unanimously despised (even by the director) Cerro Torre: Scream of Stone - which isn't really a problem, since these are lesser Herzog endeavours... however, it is sad to see the great Woyzeck so briefly discussed, as for me, it represents the ultimate creative pinnacle of all the Herzog/Kinski collaborations. This is only a slight (personal) criticism, of course, with the rest of the book really offering us a deeper insight into the real-life persona of this enigmatic, genius-like figure. As others have said, Herzog on Herzog is easily one of the best books in the Faber interview series - ranking alongside similar books on David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Lars von Trier - as it offers us a greatly entertaining and wholly definitive look at one of the most individual and important filmmakers of the last fifty years.
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on 16 February 2006
One of the unfortunate things for fans of Werner Herzog’s cinema is the rather feeble and pathetic array of literature there is out there. Timothy Corrigan’s essential Herzog book "The Films of Werner Herzog: Beyond Mirage and History" has been out of print for some years and besides, only covers Herzog’s career up to 1985. If you don’t have access to academic journals and university libraries the alternative is to pay through the nose. A definitive study of the great man’s films is required. Cronin’s book kind of fills that gap as it does at least deal with most of Herzog’s important works. The interest of this book comes from the fact that it a book of interviews and Herzog’s views are both illuminating and interesting. I could almost here his hypnotic German accent as I read it. However, a lot of old ground is trodden over and if any reader is looking for new and exciting tales of the raving Klaus Kinski, they will be disappointed. Many of the anecdotes and comments Herzog comes out with are repeated in My Best Fiend (1999) and on a number of commentary tracks for his DVD’s. Far more interesting are his comments on less known films such as "Ballad of the Little Soldier" (1984), "Echoes From a Sombre Empire" (1990) and "The Dark Glow of the Mountains" (1984). So many myths have sprung up around Herzog and his work, that perhaps now, mostly due to documentation and the media they feel somewhat stilted and stale. Herzog is at his best when expounding his own theories on the effects of cinema, and in his rants against academia. But its clear the man has a philosophy and goal which he is trying to achieve through the medium of cinema, not simply a director making money and then moving on to the next thing. Cronin’s questions are in the main insightful, but at times he comes across in the same way as Herzog himself did in one of his best films "The Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner" (1974) as an excitable and breathless fan. Overall, an interesting and thought provoking read and probably one of the best in this ongoing range by Faber and Faber, the other I recommend is the David Lynch one. But this book does sit rather strangely with Herzog and it wasn’t something I ever expected him to do.
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on 8 February 2003
Werner Herzog's endlessly fascinating career has been the subject of many myths and speculations. In this bountiful book, able film scholar Paul Cronin provides a context for Herzog to give his own account - the definitive one. I have to agree with the review on this page by ermoguff2: Herzog On Herzog is inspirational, well edited, and may be the best book so far in the faber interview series. No small claim.
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on 22 November 2011
A must have for any Herzog lover! The interviews in it are absorbing, much like reading a novel, since Herzog's life seems surreal. The book is full of his humorous remarks, his dead-pan style of looking at humour, personal stories and unusual advice for filmmakers.

I bought this book a while back, before an exam for a Film Study class and Herzog was one of the film makers I had to know about, since we had watched and discussed several of his films. I passed the exam with no difficulty, and it was mostly due to the fact that this book made me feel closer to Herzog's take on what movie making is all about, his beliefs, his modus operandi, his hardships and what made him become the out of the ordinary, rule breaking, mostly self-taught genius that we all love. The questions are not some bland lines you find in most interviews, but insightful and cleverly thought lines, making for a wonderful flow of question and answer.

While reading, you feel like you are witnessing the dialogue between the two, and you can almost hear Herzog when reading his answers. The division into chapters also makes it easier to find which topics are discussed in which part of the book. All in all a wonderful read, inspirational and definitely a step closer to understanding Werner Herzog!
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on 18 November 2002
I've loved Herzog's films for many years, including the rare documentaries (many of which are just as good - if not better - than his features), so rushed at the opportunity to read this 300 page interview book with this great film director. I wasn't disappointed! It's a great read, amazing stories about these incredible films, very inspirational (about how he decided to just go and make films, rather than wasting time at film school), and well edited too. HERZOG ON HERZOG is easily the best book in Faber's interview series.
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on 18 November 2002
I've been waiting for this book for years. Why has it taken so long for someone to sit down and get inside the head of this brilliant filmmaker? Regardless, now the book is finally done, and it's great! Lots of good stories (I love the stuff about Klaus Kinski!), things you never knew about your favourite film director. The book is densely written, but well worth a read. One of the best interview books I've read.
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on 6 April 2015
Great book but really low quality recycled paper used. Very dark and tiring on the eyes.
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on 20 November 2011
Currently studying Herzog in University and needed various reliable sources. This book is fantastic and sets a lot of false rumours to bed. Easy reading.
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on 30 September 2013
A great read for anyone interested in filmmaking or the filmmaking process. Also a good read for people who want to be inspired by others.
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on 18 November 2002
This is a really good read - lots of juicy stories about Herzog and Kinski. I've been trying to find a book about Herzog for ages, and Herzog on Herzog is a very welcome addition to my shelves. A must for film buffs everywhere!
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