La Soufrière - Warten auf eine unausweichliche Katastrophe - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

La Soufrière - Warten auf eine unausweichliche Katastrophe Reviews

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½ May 9, 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.
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.
½ 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
½ 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.
February 8, 2011
i could listen to werner herzog speak all day long.
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.
½ November 12, 2010
Another fine Herzog documentary
½ October 7, 2010
Interesting but short doc. Most notable is that Herzog admits he is embarrassed but wishes that the volcano had exploded as it would have certainly made for more drama.
July 26, 2010
Werner Herzog and his two cameramen on an volcanic island that is about to explode. Breath-taking madness!
½ May 15, 2010
Herzog goes to a Caribbean volcano on the day it is meant to erupt to visit a man who refuses to leave the town, despite the fact that it means his certain death (and Herzog's?). Haunting images of the deserted town and billowing sulfur clouds. Great narration, as usual, in Herzog's awesome accented English...
March 21, 2010
Lonely and profound. Filled with as many amazing images from this soon to be destroyed island as one could imagine.
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?
½ February 19, 2010
" He survived because he was the baddest man in town. "
Super Reviewer
½ December 31, 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.
½ 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.
½ October 15, 2009
another interesting shot doc by herzog. a town at the foot of a volcano on the southern part of the island of guadeloupe is evactuated because the volcano is exhibiting all the signs of catastrophic eruption. so where does herzog go? he heads up the mountain into the sulfuric gasses. many wonderful shots of the deserted town.
September 15, 2009
Gem. How does he find these stories ?
September 14, 2009
This 30-minute short is a masterpiece and one of Herzog's best documentaries.
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