Lektionen in Finsternis
Germany, United Kingdom, France, 52 min
“Talking about oil: corpse juice” (René Barjavel). Herzog could have made this sentence his own, in the way his “lessons of darkness” evoking the ravages of the first Gulf war constitute a cinematic sci-fi opera that he presents in voice-over, like an explorer discovering an unknown planet. Or rather what would remain of it after an apocalypse, such as the burning of hundreds of oil wells by the Iraqi forces withdrawing from Kuwait. The wide format, the use of slow travelling shots, the music (Grieg, Mahler...) intend to strike the spectator by showing the scale of the destruction wreaked—on nature and on humans—with flames as far as the eye can see or the millions of tons of petrol spilled – whereas the mass media at the time only showed a few seconds of empty images, geared towards a quick and painless oblivion. Against this playing down of the horror, Herzog composes a filmic dirge, in 13 chapters, whose worrying beauty is equalled only by its fundamental pessimism towards Humanity and whose suicidal urge seems to have reached a point of no return.