Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Insight of Werner Herzog (applied to Geology in the Field)

I was wandering through Salon.com when I ran across this piece about film director and all-around creative person Werner Herzog. Many of his excellent films have had wilderness/outdoor themes, including Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World. A recent book about Herzog has a list of 24 maxims about life and film-making that really struck a chord, and I couldn't help but think how they apply to understanding not just life and film, but also geology in the field. Here, for the fun of it, is an annotated list (stuff in parentheses is mine, and not nearly so wise):

1. Always take the initiative.
2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot (sample) you need.
3. Send out all your dogs (graduate students) and one might return with prey (field data that you need).
4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
5. Learn to live with your mistakes (so true in the field).

6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern (the first researchers who did work in a region had much to offer).
7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film (field project).
9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere (!!).
10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission (before you get shot for trespassing).
12. Take your fate into your own hands.
13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape (have you ever heard of a better explanation of field work?).

14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory (the heart of the field geologist!).
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour (well, I don't know about this one...).
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver (is this advice for teachers??).
17. Don’t be fearful of rejection (for you shall experience it much).
18. Develop your own voice.
19. Day one is the point of no return (so true in the field).
20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class (which geology related course should be listed here?).
21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema (and geology in the field, too).
22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
23. Take revenge if need be.
24. Get used to the bear behind you (no further comment needed).

Thank you, Mr. Herzog for your wonderful work!


Celia Lewis said...

Too funny, Garry! You clearly had fun with these! And that bear... there's a story about that bear I think.

Anonymous said...


Great job! Particularly loved #13 but laughed at many more.

Susan in Denver

Anonymous said...

I love geology and I love Herzog! Thanks for sharing your adaptation of his guide for the perplexed with readers. I keep picturing scenes from Fitzgeraldo as I read this! Cheers, Maria

Anonymous said...

I meant to type Fitzcarraldo. great film!