“Into the Inferno” (2016)
Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Featuring: Clive Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog: [reciting from Iceland’s Codex Regius] “The sun dimeth / the land sinketh / Gusheth forth steam / And gutting fire / To the heaven soar / The hurtling flames / Of the mighty gods / The engulfing doom”
Werner Herzog is possibly one of the greatest directors of fiction and non-fiction that has ever lived. He is at ease with creating a document of a given subject matter whether it’s a grizzly man, the lochness monster or even with volcanoes, which he has looked previously with his documentary “Encounters at the End of the World” (2007). The good news is at 74 years of age he shows no sign of slowing down with three movies released in 2016 alone.
“Into the Inferno” is an exploration of active volcanoes in Indonesia, Iceland, North Korea and Ethiopia, Herzog follows volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, who hopes to minimize the volcanoes’ destructive impact. Herzog’s quest? To gain an image of our origins and nature as a species. He finds that the volcano—mysterious, violent, and rapturously beautiful—instructs us that, “there is no single one that is not connected to a belief system.”
Travelling to Indonesia and Vanuatu, Herzog and Oppenheimer illustrate how present-day humans have created myths that both anthropomorphize volcanoes and seek to placate their wrath. Oppenheimer, ever respectful, interviews local chieftains who claim to have spoken with volcanoes.
At other points in their film, Herzog and Oppenheimer journey to Iceland and North Korea, where volcanoes have had a seminal role in these nations’ identities.
If you have seen any of Herzog’s documentaries before they are very different from anybody else’s – he has a certain meditative view on life that he loves to share not only with his subjects but also the audience as well. This mediation is integral to the subject matter of the documentary he is directing and it is vital here. Herzog seems to be saying that the volcanoes and the earth itself is ignorant of man going about his business while these under-rated behemoths hold our very lives in their ‘hands’. He has made such proclamations before, in “Grizzly Man” (2009) and “Encounters at the End of the World” (2009).
Of course Herzog makes a link between the volcanoes and those populations that either rely on them or identify with them. Each segment of the documentary offers an insight into a story or identity of the people with a certain Herzogian slant.
This is the latest in the long line of Werner Herzog documentaries and is a must watch for anyone that loves nature, the earth or Werner. It is streaming on Netflix now!