Werner Herzog on ski jumping and filming in North Korea
PARK CITY, Utah – The first time Werner Herzog came to Sundance a little over a decade ago with “Grizzly Man,” he asked that the Festival prepare the Olympic-sized ski jump ramps for him.
He’d grown up on skis in the Bavarian mountains and was a ski jumper in his youth.
Herzog, then in his early 60s, told them simply: “I want to fly.”
“I said it so seriously,” Herzog recalled. “I kind of scared the Festival.”
“Of course, I am too old for it and would most certainly crash…. I would fly some distance, but don’t ask how I would land.”
The famed documentarian returned to the Sundance Film Festival this year with “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” a wide-eyed look at the world of the internet (and its birthplace) and technology as told through a series of interviews with experts and eccentrics ranging from Elon Musk to the folks living in Green Bank, West Virginia, deliberately removed from the world of cellphones and wireless devices.
The now 73-year-old is still as active as ever in filmmaking – he has two films on the shelf and one in the works, “Into the Inferno,” an exploration of volcanoes and those who live in proximity to them. The project has brought him to locations as varied as Ethiopia, Iceland and North Korea, where he had to obtain a special permit and abide by strict restrictions to shoot the volcano he’d set his sights on.
“You have to let them know exactly what you’re doing and there are ground rules. And of course apparently they had seen some films of mine.” Herzog said. “They know with whom they are dealing.”
He recalled one instance where he was filming soldiers taking photos of one another at a resort site. One soldier took a photo of a uniformed woman, who Herzog said was also a soldier He was immediately stopped and told to destroy it. He said he couldn’t, but promised not to use the footage.
“They said ‘what’s your guarantee?’ And I said, ‘I have three things to offer: my face, my consciousness, and my handshake.’ And I shook their hand and they accepted it. … It was mutual trust.”
The film isn’t finished yet, but Herzog said he is constantly working.
He has no plans to hit the slopes this year, but he does find himself looking at the alluring lights on the mountain at night.
“You see, I used to ski where there was a full moon and you could see enough,” he said. “It’s just wonderful.”