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Fata Morgana (1971-1992)

Cast: Lotte Eisner, Lotte Eisner
Director: Werner Herzog, Werner Herzog
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Anchor Bay, Anchor Bay Entertainment
Genre: Experimental/Avant-Garde, Documentary, Foreign, Germany
Languages: English, German
Subtitles: English
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Synopses
Fata Morgana (1971)
The term which has become this film's title, Fata Morgana, refers to mirages, and is an apt title for this storyless, hallucinatory work shot in the deserts of North Africa. It is a rhythmic, musical succession of images and short scenes. One of the images is a pianist and drummer who play tiredly, surrounded by endless tracts of desert. This is an image that has been adapted and re-used in countless music videos and is a small piece of evidence suggesting that this is a very influential film. The narration, in English, comes from a Guatemalan creation myth, and the accompanying music ranges from Couperin to Cash, with significant contributions by Leonard Cohen. Fata Morgana is one of the early features by the renowned director Werner Herzog, better known for Aguirre, Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo. As is the case for many of Herzog's films, he paid a high price in physical pain to shoot this one; he was arrested and tortured by an African government in the mistaken belief that he was a mercenary soldier. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide

Lessons of Darkness (1992)
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 Iraqi 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. ~ Elbert Ventura, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Ratings

Fata Morgana (1971)
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7.17 (88 votes)
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Lessons of Darkness (1992)
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7.54 (92 votes)
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GreenCine Member Reviews

Misleadingly Simple, Haunting, Devastating by randomcha June 30, 2005 - 5:12 PM PDT
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1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
It truly is "science fiction" filmed right here on earth. Herzog's use of music is by turns amazing and provacative; sometimes heightening what we see, sometimes contradicting. My only major complaint is that some of the voice over is a bit unecessary. The images by themselves have undeniable power. This would make a great double bill with "Night And Fog."

lessons of light by jaimetout November 14, 2003 - 2:18 PM PST
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6 out of 8 members found this review helpful
I've seen most of Herzog's films, and this is definitely one of my favorites, if not my favorite. Herzog employs long, static shots (though often in motion, as can be seen in a shot looking down at the shoulder of a road from the back of a moving truck) that reinforce the vastness of the landscapes he captures on celluloid. Yeah, it gets thrown around way too often, but maybe the term "tone poem" fits this film better than any other. There's something about the mix of Leonard Cohen songs, globe-trotting landscape photography, ancient creation myth, rotting animal carcasses, and oddly striking shots of African children holding unidentifiable felines that is simultaneously unsettling, soothing, and beautiful. In any case, the mood evoked here is Herzog at his evocative finest.

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