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24 Wonderfully Bonkers Werner Herzog Quotes

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s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

The other day I made fun of Justin Bieber for not being Werner Herzog. This is because there can only be one Herzog. Werner Herzog was once shot during an interview. Because the gun was only an air rifle, he quickly dismissed the incident. Despite the reporter’s insistence that Herzog go to the hospital, Herzog explained, as only he can, “It is not a significant bullet.”

These are the prolific filmmaker’s best quotes, in all of their unabashed glory.

1. “I invite any sort of myths [about myself] because I like the stooges and doppelgangers and doubles out there. I feel protected behind all these things. Let them blossom! I do not plant them, I do not throw out the seeds. I advise you to read Herzog on Herzog because there you see a few clarifications.”

2. “Do you not then hear this horrible scream all around you that people usually call silence?”

3. “I am someone who takes everything very literally. I simply do not understand irony, a defect I have had ever since I was able to think independently.”

4. “Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.”

5. “In the face of the obscene, explicit malice of the jungle, which lacks only dinosaurs as punctuation, I feel like a half-finished, poorly expressed sentence in a cheap novel.”

6. “Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.”

7. “I’m quite convinced that cooking is the only alternative to film making. Maybe there’s also another alternative; that’s walking on foot.”

8. “Nothing I have witnessed, from lava to crustacean, assailed me liked the caked debris haunting that small plastic soap hammock in the smaller of the bathrooms. Nausea is not a sufficient word.”

9. “Together, I said, we shall boil fire and stop fish.”

10. About his friendship with Klaus Kinski: “People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other’s murder.”

11. Also on Kinski: “Kinski walked off, packed all his things and was absolutely serious about quitting and leaving at once — he’d already broken his contract 40 or 50 times. I went up to him and said, ‘You can’t do this.’ I told him I had a rifle and that he’d only make it as far as the first bend before he had eight bullets in his head — the ninth one would be for me.”

12. Also also on Kinski: “It was worthwhile for what you see on the screen. Who cares if every grey hair on my head I call ‘Kinski’?”

13. “I see planets that don’t exist and landscapes that have only been dreamed.”

14. “Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species—including man—crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.”

15. “I don’t see [the jungle] so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It’s just – Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. Of course, there’s a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing. They just screech in pain.”

16. While filming Fitzcarraldo: “Without dreams we would be cows in a field, and I don’t want to live like that. I live my life or I end my life with this project.”

17. To an interview subject during Encounters at the End of the World: “Tell me about an encounter with a squirrel.”

18. “I would travel down to Hell and wrestle a film away from the devil if it was necessary.”

19. “If you truly love film, I think the healthiest thing to do is not read books on the subject. I prefer the glossy film magazines with their big colour photos and gossip columns, or the National Enquirer. Such vulgarity is healthy and safe.”

20. “I can tell those apart who can milk a cow, I mean with their bare hands. Sometimes people can tell by looking at someone, ‘Aha! This must be a drug dealer or this must be a lawyer.’”

21. “I know whenever it comes to be really dysfunctional and vile and base and hostile on screen, I’m good at that.”

22. “I have never been one of those who cares about happiness. Happiness is a strange notion. I am just not made for it. It has never been a goal of mine; I do not think in those terms.”

23. “For me a chair is a chair — and I do not reference to other possibilities. For me, a man is a man. I cannot distinguish a gay man from a straight man…After 35 years of knowing John Waters I turn to my wife and I said to her, ‘I have the feeling that this man is gay.’”

24. “I shouldn’t make movies anymore. I should go to a lunatic asylum.”

It’s, of course, impossible to boil down Werner Herzog’s delicious nuttiness in 24 quotes. Have other favorite Herzogisms? Leave them in the comments. TC mark

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