February 08, 2015

When great directors turn upon their films

I so loved Werner Herzog's 1984 indictment of extractive modernity, Where the Green Ants Dream. Then I heard his director's commentary recorded twenty years after the film, where he repeatedly decries the "righteous tone" of the movie.

I felt a little sad at coming across once again--and that too from Herzog--the belief that good art cannot take a moral stand, or that a moral stance is necessarily reductive.

This is such a white Euro-American perspective on art!

I would like to argue that sincerity does not necessarily simplify, that there is nothing simple about sincerity. Sincerity is necessarily, naturally, contrapuntal. Contextual. Always, already strange, particularly in periods typified by reified aesthetic gestures of irony, nihilism, and intellectualism.


Werner also, in the director's commentary, blames the abuse of alcohol and drugs among indigenous communities on indigenous folk being thrown into a civilization that is thousands of years "ahead" - not understanding (not caring? ignoring? forgetting?) that the "shock" the "primitive" people suffer from erupts not from being behind, but at finding themselves in a modernity that is so far behind: in empathy, mutuality, interconnectedness, participation, love.

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