Lessons in Darkness
Time Out saysAfter the Gulf War, Herzog and cameraman/co-producer Paul Berriff travelled to Kuwait. What they found in the sand, besides bones, craters, rusting military debris and the shattered shells of buildings, was a blazing inferno. The bleak landscape on view was even more dramatic than the wreckage Herzog had shot in the Sahara for Fata Morgana (1971); small wonder, then, that as an accompaniment to the images, instead of the (ironic) creation myth he used for the earlier film, he concocted a 'narrative' to point up the apocalyptic aspects of Saddam Hussein's conflagration. The result, in 13 'chapters', is an evocation of hell on earth. Massive towers of flame and billowing black smoke transform the desert into a surreal, expressionist nightmare-world; Kuwaitis turn shocked, saddened eyes to the camera, without recrimination; fire fighters appear to be involved in bizarre, primeval rituals as they go silently about their seemingly ineffectual work. Herzog's own hushed, awestruck voice intones the poetic narration, while the likes of Wagner, Mahler, Verdi and Pärt are enlisted to furnish an epic, elegaic musical backdrop.