You work so much – is the need to tell stories what motivates you to work that much?
Herzog: Probably, but I am not a man who is driven all the time. I am not a maniac. But Ilove my work and I do not like to hang around for years and twiddle my thumbs and hope that something will happen to me and some producer will offer me something. I always, when I am in between larger projects, I do a documentary. For example, Grizzly Man was done in 29 days. 9 days of editing, 14 days of shooting. From the first day of shooting to the first cut of the film being presented to the committee of Sundance was exactly 29 days. That film came so easily – it all fell in place, as if I was sleepwalking.
Were you surprised by the response that film got?
Herzog: The magnitude of the response surprised me, but I had the feeling from the very first moment that this was something very big. You can tell – it happens a couple of times in your life when you know that you’ve gotten into something and you better do it right now, this is big.
It’s a film that is going to stay, it’s not going to age. It’s not going to disappear after its first run, which was quite successful. It’s going to linger. This was a film that’s going to stay.
The themes are timeless.
Herzog: And the character and the environment, and wild nature – this is something I can deal with easily. But I always kept saying, ‘Do not expect me to do a film about wild nature, this is a film about human nature.’
It was an incredibly crowded group of documentaries last year – what do you think has changed in the documentary world?
Herzog: I think there’s a very big background to that. The background is that we have an explosive evolution of new instruments for creating reality or pseudo-reality of invented reality; digital effects, virtual reality and the net, reality TV, PhotoShop itself. All of a sudden filmmakers, and we as an audience, are forced to readjust our attitudes towards reality. What constitutes reality? There will be many great documentaries because audiences are longing for films that point back to the reality of their lives. We have find new way to express this – it’s a great time for filmmaking, and a great time in particular for documentaries. But not in the way that cinema verite was done – that was the answer of the 60s.
Grizzly Man is a documentary that is about Treadwell but is also an editorial and a discussion with him –
Herzog: An ongoing argument.
A lot of people think of documentaries as only fact, fact, fact…
Herzog: We have to look after that, but beyond the facts there is something we have forgotten to ask about, and that is the truth. Where is the truth that illuminates us? I’m after an ecstasy of truth, an ecstatic truth. And not just in documentaries – in all my feature films you see this quest for illumination, this ecstasy of truth. I have my way to do it, but I see many, many others who are doing very bold and unusual new things in documentaries. I really welcome that.
Is it harder to find that truth in a narrative feature?
Herzog: It’s always elusive. It is always mysterious. You have to have a very clear vision, a very deep vision. If you don’t have that, don’t go into filmmaking.
Complete Interview at CHUD