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La Soufrière - Warten auf eine unausweichliche Katastrophe Reviews

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Bhavin V.
May 3, 2014
As the camera slowly hovers over the lush green expanse of the mountain, its slopes caressed by a constant flux of toxic gases, the faint sounds of trickling streams and rivulets give way to a foreboding piece of classical music, which gradually diminishes as the camera now switches to a poor peasant lying at the base of the mountain. This short 60-odd second segment appears about halfway through Werner Herzog's "La Soufriere", and at this point in the picture the viewer is left in no doubt with regards to the critical acclaim that it has garnered.

All of 30 minutes in its total runtime, "La Soufriere" is a visual report shot in 1976 documenting the impending eruption of the eponymous caldera, located on the island of Saint Vincent in the Windward islands of the Caribbean. Towards the end of August in that year, it had become clear to volcanologists that an earth-shattering explosion, "possessing the power of 5 or 6 atomic bombs", was inevitable. Thus, 75,000 inhabitants comprising the whole southern part of the island were evacuated. That is, except 3 impoverished peasants near the slope of the mountain, who refused to be evacuated against all odds. Mr. Herzog, ever on the look-out for eccentric environments and even more eccentric characters, seized the opportunity to travel to the island, churning out a valuable piece of art in the process.

Upon arrival into the town, Herzog spends some time filming the streets in the full glory of their complete desolation, now and then focusing on eerie aspects such as still-running traffic lights and television sets, a bunch of clueless pigs, a pair of donkeys wandering aimlessly, and the rotting carcasses of starved dogs. A true depiction of a ghost town, "almost resembling a spooky science fiction locale", that rivals any fictional counterpart ever captured on celluloid at the time. Add to this Herzog's restrained and gracious monologue, and it's impossible not to share his sense of awe for the grandiosity of nature. Going one step further, in a trademark breach of laws and circumvention of roadblocks, the team ascends the mountain, and casually films an active volcano while standing right on top of it.

But the juice of the film comes later, with the introduction of our three adamant protagonists. The first one is found peacefully sleeping, and when interviewed, exhibits not a shred of fear, in spite of being fully aware of the gravity of the situation. He says that he has found his inner peace, and is ready to embrace death. The same goes for the other two, who are equally nonchalant. The brief scene with the folk song is a nice touch, providing a strong contrast against the looming peril. It is interesting to note here that Herzog dubs both, his own questions, and the peasants' answers, in his own voice. It is one of those things that separates this film from your standard Nat-Geo fare, with Herzog the observer becoming one with the observed in his pursuit of "ecstatic truth".

The volcano never erupts, however, and for another filmmaker in Herzog's place, this would have been a major let-down. Instead, the film takes on a fresh sense of irony, as well as of humanity. As the film ends along the notes of a loud and triumphant orchestral piece, Herzog narrates : "In my memory, it is not the volcano that remains, but the neglect and oblivion in which those black people lived."

One of the Bavarian Auteur's overlooked gems.
Nik M.
October 22, 2013
One documentary that has perhaps the most questionable purpose in all of documentary-hood. Why is it that at the moment of a volcano's impending eruption would a filmmaker attempt to film it up close and in person? Herzog seems to be the only man in the universe that would pull off such an endeavor. The documentary treads along the very question of facing death but keeps its viewers buzzed over its purpose.
Allen G.
June 30, 2013
"A report on an inevitable catastrophe that did not take place."

You know 'Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe'? Well this is Werner Herzog walks up a volcano. It is the perfect setting for Herzog's work- an abandoned (for the most part) town with the constant threat of death prevalent- because happy filmmaking just don't taste good enough.

It is too short and doesn't delve as deep as some of Herzog's later works nor does it have quite the same fascination in its nature but it feels like a typical Herzog doc. if there can be such a thing and that doesn't make it typical at all.
August 30, 2012
Another Herzog triumph
January 19, 2012
Volcano about to blow and Herzog turns up with a crew to shoot it and it doesn't quite go to plan. Some haunting imagery of the empty streets and a couple of interesting characters waiting to die (the volcano never erupted) and the crew nearly get gassed in the process. Not one of his best efforts, but certainly one for completists like me.
Marcus W

Super Reviewer

January 8, 2011
A volcano is about to blow. What do you do? If you're German, mad, and called Werner Herzog, you sneak around the army roadblocks and climb the volcano to film a documentary. He explores an abandoned town and speaks to some people who refuse to leave, and then...well, you'll just have to see it for yourself.
November 12, 2010
Another fine Herzog documentary

Super Reviewer

February 26, 2010
I want to see anything by Herzog!!
I have not come across this one.
Do you know the English title?

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2009
"The sea was full of dead snakes. They had crawled down during the night by the thousands from the mountain Soufriere and fled into the sea where they promptly drowned."

Werner Herzog takes his documentary lens where most fear to tread, the island of Guadeloupe where a seemingly inevitable volcanic eruption has turned a once bustling city into a ghost town. Herzog shows little fear (and common sense) as he scopes out the island and it's very few remaining inhabitants. Intriguing real-life drama that, through no fault of the film makers, is happily anticlimactic.
December 9, 2009
WEB. Genial obra de Herzog, una de sus más representativas y exitosas en captar su famoso "éxtasis de la verdad". Perfecta combinación de música, imágenes y transparente narración. / Genial Herzog work, one of his most representative and successful in capturing his famous "ecstasy of truth". Perfect combination of music, images and transparent narration.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

October 1, 2009
There is no denying that Herzog will go to great lengths to document the wired and wonderful events that occur on our little planet, even a volcano won?t stop him! Another fantastic documentary by Herzog who sets up his camera when everyone else has run!
August 30, 2008
Interessante. O Herzog é louco mesmo, só ele pra ir num vulcão prestes a explodir.
August 15, 2008
Not Herzog's best by far, actually quite boring
July 23, 2007
amazing short / documentary!
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