Ever since he stole his first film camera, Werner Herzog has been making strange, brilliant films that blur the line between fact and fiction. His features and documentaries explore grand, elemental, even primeval themes — the nature of madness, the chasm between nature and civilization, and man’s mad ambition to conquer a hostile, implacable natural world. Over the past forty years Herzog has created a body of work that is arguably as powerful and durable as any contemporary filmmaker.
His 2009 film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? — a film loosely based on the story of Mark Yavorsky, a grad student who, inspired by Aeschyles’ Oresteia, murdered his mother with a saber — comes out on DVD next month. PLANET spoke with Herzog about the madness he attracts, his cinematic vision, and his relationship with Roger Ebert.
Did you ever meet Mark Yavorsky?
Mark Yavorsky was found incompetent to stand trial and he was put away in a maximum-security mental institution, but he was released after eight years. And I met him at a trailer park. He lived in a trailer park, near Riverside, CA. …. His trailer was filled with strange memorabilia. In one corner he had a poster of Aguirre: The Wrath of God and there was a shrine built and a candle burning in front of it. When I walked in, I shrank back and I thought, “Oh, get yourself out of here. Stay out. Stay away from the man.”