Lessons of Darkness (1995)
Straddling a line between documentary and science fiction, Werner Herzog's Lektionen in Finsternis is an epic visual poem set in the burning oil fields of Kuwait following the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. Herzog, as much a daredevil as a documentarian, took his small crew in a helicopter and, floating above the fields, photographed jaw-dropping footage of the blazing, blackened landscape. Alternately horrific and majestic, the movie is a phantasmagoric, if distanced, catalog of horrors. Boiling lakes of crude oil, twisted scraps of melted metal, and ominous billows of smoke and fire abound. On the ground, the images are just as otherworldly. Herzog filmed scenes of firemen in full-body suits, working -- futilely it seems -- to contain the blaze. There are also a couple of interviews with Kuwaiti women, who talk heartbreakingly of the brutalities they suffered at the hands of Iraqi soldiers. In his voice-over narration, Herzog assumes the identity of a spectator from another planet, making bemused comments about the catastrophe with no attempt to inform the viewer of the factual circumstances behind it. His high-flown rhetoric, dense with mythical portent and allusiveness, underscores this visionary movie's detached view of the destruction of the Kuwaiti oil fields. … More
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Critic Reviews for Lessons of Darkness
A staggering, faux-extraterrestrial fugue
Though shot straightforward, it all looks so nightmarish, alien and surreal.
One of Herzog's earliest - and most evocative - cinematic essays on the uneasy relationships between man and Earth, unaffected reality and orchestrated drama.
Herzog is a fearless, meticulous director who approaches his subject in a timeless manner, turning this disaster into a great theme, a story for all time.
Lays the groundwork for Herzog's masterpiece Aguirre: The Wrath of God.
Exotic animals, gutted structures, rusting vehicles, orientalist tourists - each a fragment of a hazy and disassembled culture mapped onto a desert wasteland
Audience Reviews for Lessons of Darkness
Werner Herzog takes us to an Alien planet, where fairytale characters behave in bizarre and often cruel ways, cause harm to each other and basically behave illogically. Then, sledgehammer to the face, wake up and smell the coffee, its planet earth man, we're the ridiculous species, capable of unbelievable cruelty and destruction. War has never been so beautiful, typical Herzog greatness. I found it to be much better than his other similar films, The wild blue yonder and Fata Morgana.More
Apocalyptic, nightmarish, but at the same time, a very beautiful poem-like documentary. Director Herzog succeeded to create such a mythical story to accompany the raw, visceral footages of the chaotic Kuwaitian oil fields. The lack of narrative but more use of operatic music adds to the film's hypnotic effect. There is never been a film where apocalyptic images is shown as beautiful as it is depicted in this little masterpiece of filmmaking. A film to be experienced but a great bore for someone not interested with these kind, particularly Herzog's films.More
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