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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  June 26, 2017 4:30am-5:01am BST

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this is bbc news — the headlines. a passenger boat carrying more than 170 people has sunk in a reservoir in colombia, taking less than five minutes to go down. officials said six people died and sixteen others are missing. there are no details yet on why the boat sank. reports from iraq say fighters from so—called islamic state have mounted a counter attack against iraqi troops, who are trying to recapture parts of the old city of mosul. the battle is intense, and iraqi commanders have told the bbc that british fighters, as well as chechens and other foreigners, are among the militants. pakistan's prime minister, nawaz sharif, has cut short a visit to london to return home, after more than 140 people were killed when an oil tanker exploded in punjab province. dozens of others were critically injured when the tanker, carrying thousands of litres of petrol, overturned and then blew up. now on bbc news, time for hardtalk. now on bbc news, time for
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welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. draw up a list of the greatest living filmmakers, and my guest today would surely occupy a prominent place. werner herzog is reponsible for some of the most wildly beautiful images captured on celluloid. if you have seen fitzcarraldo, you won't have forgotten the steamship being hauled over a mountain. he is seen as the film industry's obsessive genius, the director who once threatened to shoot his lead actor to prevent him quitting. afterfive decades making movies, is werner herzog's love of film as intense as ever? werner herzog, welcome to hardtalk.
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thank you. let's start with the word "passion". you have been making films for the best part of five decades. does your passion for film burn as bright as ever? it hasn't stopped. there is some sort of a fire within, and in a way, i can say i haven't had a career. because career means planning, and "what do i do after that step?" it is always, i keep saying, it is like burglars in your kitchen in the middle of the night. you wake up at 3:00am in the morning, and something stirs, and there are five burglars. and the one who carries the most vehemence at you, with an axe in his hand, ora knife ora gun, so you have to deal with that one first. and that is how my film projects are coming at me. and i have, in recent years, i have made more films. and just counting them, which is silly.
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we have made more films than before, and some of them bigger. you mentioned fitzcarraldo, i am just releasing now a big, epic film, which was shot in the desert in morocco. queen of the desert, with nicole kidman. i have done documentaries, but i have done other things, which are overlooked quite often. i have written books, and i have a suspicion that my prose may outlive my films, like conquest of the useless, or of walking in ice. i have run my own film school. i am going to stop you there, because there is so much... and acting as a villain... i will stop it. i will get to the acting as a villain later on too. even the list you have just given me of the artistic endeavours you are still undertaking, so many of them, i am just wondering whether your style has changed?
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do you think — there is this word "mellowed," and people often attach it to age. do you think you have mellowed, as an artist, with age? it doesn't look likely. because if you look at the films i have made just a few years ago, bad lieutenant, people think i am this possessed filmmaker who has not an ounce of humour in all my films. there is humour, including fitzcarraldo, including the instance when i came close to shooting my leading actor, or grisly man. there is an intensity which has not been there before. you have also mentioned, you have started teaching young filmmakers. and i wonder — imagine i am one of your young students, who has gone through a very severe selection process, and is now listening to werner herzog?s view of the fundamentals of making movies. if there are just a few words that you could give to a student like me, as to what
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matters most for successfully making a good movie, what would you say? i think self—reliance. everybody is complaining how the industry is stupid, they cannot get the money together. and so i say roll up your sleeves, work as a bouncer in a sex club, in a lunatic asylum, half the year. you earn ten or $20,000, and you can make a feature film today. there is no excuse anymore. and then, of course, read, read, read, read, read. if you don't read, you will never make a great film. and i do have mandatory reading lists, but it has nothing to do with cinema. it has to do with poetry, beginning
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in antiquity, in rome, virgil, georgics, about life in the country. at even the report about the assassination of kennedy. so a broad mind matters? yes, conceptual thinking. and those who are ready to break the rules, who are ready to learn from me how to pick a safety lock, how to forge a document. you see a film like fitzcarraldo would never be possible without massive forgery. at the time peru was a dictatorship. all of a sudden, along the river, i had to move my ship. i was stopped, shot at. and i demanded an explanation, and i didn't get an explanation. i was only told, "where is your shooting permit?" and i said — of course, i made it up — "it is in lima, and it will take me three or four days until i can bring it to thejungle." so four days later i come with a very elaborate, beautiful document, written in antiquated chancellery sort of diction, in spanish, on notary paper, and it says the el presidente de la republica, the president of the republic.
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it allowed me literally... and a complete fake. a complete fake. it was signed by the president of the republic, stamped, the notary of the president signed it as well. and the interior minister signed it. so then i said, "you let me pass now?" and he looks at me, and looks at the document, and salutes and says pass on. so rule—breaking is a part of the recipe for successful filmmakers? yes. and you have constantly, through your career, focused on this word "courage." and you havejuxtaposed courage against cowardice in the way you go about making a film. at what i want to push you on,
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you mentioned fitzcarraldo, is that you can take courage to an insane extent. you can push your crew, your actors, the people around you, to the point where they are putting their lives on the line. and many would say you did that with fitzcarraldo. i did that with my life, with no—one else?s. that is a myth which has been created. but let's put it into normal terms. yes, i have done films that nobody else would have done. how do you move a very, heavy steel boat over a mountain, with the help of 1,100 "savage," in movie terms, native indians? but it was not insanity, because i knew i could move it over the mountain. correct me if i'm wrong,
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but i have read, and maybe it was folklore, that one of your cinematographers had his hand smashed when filming the steamship, when he was going over the rapids. another was bitten by a deadly snake, and lost part of his leg. chopped off with a chainsaw, because it was one of our lumber men, who worked barefoot, cutting trees for moving the ship over the clear part, strip of the forest. he was bitten by the most venomous snake in the world. and you have something like, very few seconds to make up your mind what to do. 0ur doctor and our medical camp was too far away for reaching it within minutes. it was something like 20 minutes away. so he picked up the chainsaw that had stopped, and started it up again, like an outboard engine of a boat. and just looked at it, and chops off his foot. oh my god. and survived.
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no movie is, surely, worth that sort of trauma. it is not, and when you do a film, you have to be very, very careful that these things are not happening. but things happen when you build a bridge, for example. yes, you have accidents. but none of them was directly related to the shooting of the film. there were extreme precautions. for example, some of the horses snapped, and when that happens there is some sort of a whiplash effect, that can decapitate one or several persons. so when we moved the ship, there was, far and wide, nobody around. i was around, nobody else. well, when you talk of extremes, and things snapping, another thing that famously snapped on one of your sets was your own temper, with your good friend and lead at that time in some of your most famous films, klaus kinski, where he threatened to leave before the end of filming, and you said if you leave now, i will shoot you before you get around the first bend of the river.
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and i am just wondering whether, actually, that was entirely facetious, or whether there was a part of werner herzog that could imagine shooting an actor? i have never done it, and the funny thing is that both of us simultaneously plotted to murder each other, with beautiful plots. like great screenplays of detective and crime stories, we plotted. but in this case, well, i was unarmed. i didn't have a rifle in my hand. however, i had confiscated his winchester, a really serious winchester, a few nights before. he had a hut a little bit higher than the extras and, you have to imagine, a thatched roof. and the extras, 45 of them, are laughing in this hut after shooting. and they are playing cards, and klaus kinski has a tantrum. these people are laughing. and all of a sudden, nobody knew what got into him, he shot through, he fired three shots
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through the hut, through the walls. that he didn't kill anyone was a miracle. he only shot the middle finger away from one of the extras. that is when i had to confiscate the rifle, and i had it. did you? honestly, now, it is many years later, did you ever consider going to get that rifle and pointing it at him? that is hard to say in retrospect, i find it very funny. i find it very funny, it is a hilarious incident. there was a grain of seriousness about it, and he realised, he realised there was a task there
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that was beyond him and beyond me. we had to fulfil a duty which was way beyond us. so in light of it, we laughed and talked and drank champagne over all of this. and you see, you have to — i think the important thing is how do you walk away from such a thing? ten minutes later. you did. we walked away from it and embraced and laughed, and laughed until the end of history. and of course, that movie, like so many of your best—known films, was set in an extreme environment. a very harsh environment. and that seems to me to be a theme of your work. notjust in your movies, your fictional films, but also in your documentary work. you love pushing yourself, and featuring subjects who are pushing themselves, to the very limit in terms of their relationship with the natural world. only if they are willing to do this. you see, i would never force anyone.
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that is a myth that i am pushing people to the brink of what they can do, to their physical existence. yes, when you are shooting in rapids, we saw the ship going through the rapids, there was nobody on board. it looked spectacular, and then it didn't look that dangerous. and we said, let's be onboard the ship with cameras. so whoever wants to, under that free will, come with me. and one of us had this camera on his shoulder, and flew through the air and smashed down on the deck, with the camera in his hand, which was something like 20 kg, and its split his hand apart. yes, this happens. but i suppose... and he never minded. he never minded. that was part of a bigger deal. yes, we do risk certain things, but we do not impose it on anyone else. i suppose i am also thinking in the context of a more recent documentary film you made, grizzly man, which took the home movie materialfilmed by the extraordinary figure, timothy treadwell, who lived for years in a re m ote pa rt
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of alaska with grizzly bears, and tragically ended his life eaten, along with his girlfriend, i... nobody deserves to die like this. but what i am getting at, and so many nobody deserves to die like this. but what i am getting at, and so many of your movies wrestle with this, is your view of the natural world. because clearly, you love it. you have spent so much of your life working in it, and yet yours is not a sort of benign view of nature. yours is a very raw, dangerous — sometimes you have even talked about the murderous capacity that there is within nature. it is unsentimental. it is not a walt disney world view of nature — it is unromantic.
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that is quite obvious. i can say it in short — i love nature, i love wild nature, but most of the time, against my betterjudgement. it seems to me, unlike a lot of modern movie—makers, they are somewhat obsessed with computer—generated images, special effects, and the extraordinary fake, breathtaking visions that can be created by man and computer, you get your breathtaking visions and your beauty and your stunning visual effects from nature itself? yes. it is how you experience nature and approach it. sometimes, i say it is a metaphor. those films made on foot, i have those images within me that come from travelling on foot. you know, we are all alone and exposed in the world. it is a strange attitude to the world — it somehow reveals itself to those who travel on foot.
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it is hard to communicate it. nobody travels on foot nowadays. but i have done it, and i'm not like a movie now, a young lady who walks the pacific trail, i'm not a trail hiker. you are not talking about wild. not like a backpacker. i travel, basically, without luggage. 0ne walk i know you did many years ago, which has lived in my memory, was a walk around the border of germany. yes. i briefly want to talk about germany. you came to fame, i guess, in the 1960s and the 1970s as part of a german new wave of filmakers, like fassbinder and wim wenders. you looked unflinchingly at the post—nazi germany that was emerging. now, you don't seem to really make films about germany, your native land, at all. have you lost interest in germany? no, it has always interested me. although, i must say,
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i'm more bavarian than german — like scottish and british! i'm more like the scotsman for the bavarians. i've always been fascinated by the country, and fascinated by the, somehow, incomprehensible barbarism. i still have not fully understood it. and i'm trying to come to grips... does that mean, as an artist, when you think about germany, you are still thinking about nazis, hitler's legacy, rather than about some of the challenges facing germany today? for example, its place in the modern european union? or the role of immigration? thanks, god, germany is embedded. it's very funny, seeing it from the outside, from the west coast of the us. when the european union was awarded the peace nobel prize, i remember the german
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press was grumbling — they all wanted a photo opportunity. it was self—celebratory. the euro is in chaos, greece is giving everyone a difficult time. on and on and on. it was just grumbling and mumbling, and discontent. and i thought, "you idiots. "you blaring idiots." the european union is the largest, biggest practised peace project that this history of this world has ever seen to. period. you think people forget that? celebrate it! celebrate it. and yet you, as you've alluded to, you've decided to live your life in california, in the united states. and that, to me, that's interesting. obviously, it is the home of the biggest movie industry in the world. and yet, you would appear to have
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so little in common with hollywood. i thought, could werner herzog ever make fitzcarraldo ii? could he ever make, what they call in hollywood, a ‘star vehicle movie,‘ built around one of the world's biggest hollywood stars? hollywood cannot do what i did. let's caution. yes, i do live in los angeles — i don't say hollywood. since 20 years, i'm happily married in los angeles. actually in california, my wife and i lived in san francisco. and we thought, "we have to go to the place, the city with the most substance in the united states." and it was very, very clear, los angeles. very quickly, it was clear. it is the most honest place. it has the glitz and glamour of hollywood at the surface but look under it, in southern california, many things that decide the world, the trends of the world — i don't speak of trendy things, i mean serious things,
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like collective dreams of the world in cinema, video games, computer, internet, free speech movements, accepting gays and lesbians as an integral part of a dignified society. so you see california as a very vibrant, contemporary place... exactly, yes, but all of the stupidity is there as well. ah well, let's get to stupidity in a moment... pumping iron. 5—year—old children going to yoga classes... and the hippies and new age... ..pseudophilosophy. you talk about all of that as though you aren't part of it. but it seems to me you have a dilemma. because... no, no! hang on, let me finish. you have made movies from time to time that have involved hollywood money, studio money. yes. i'm thinking of rescue dawn, the extraordinary story of an american german pilot captured in vietnam. now, when you made that movie, the new yorker wrote a fascinating piece about how you, time and again,
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you were frustrated by demands of the producers, the vast crew sent from hollywood, because there were millions of dollars at stake. can you work with hollywood or not? i can deal with it, and we have interesting points of meeting. there is a borderline — although sometimes, there might be friction — but i'm better than hollywood in some respects. hollywood is basically the real big hollywood, would be special effects star value. although aall of the stars want to work with me as well. —— although all of the stars want to work with me as well. an easy position for me now, vis—a—vis hollywood. but i'm good at storytelling. i have a suspicion i'm good at storytelling, and that is a basic and fundamental part of filmmaking. if you don't have big films, that are mostly explosions, shoot—outs, things like that, don't function.
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forgive... that is why hollywood looks in my direction as well, and it is totally fine. it's interesting you say that, "hollywood looks in my direction," you say. forgive this, i don't mean to sound impertinent. but the one award you've never won — you won best picture at cannes with fitzcarraldo, but you've never won an oscar for your directing. does that rankle with you? when you think about this career you've had. number one, career i didn't have. and whether i ever won an oscar or not, it doesn't make a film better or worse. it just doesn't. and it has to come as a natural component. you don't spend sleepless nights over this. and i enjoy seeing that colleagues of mine who are really good get academy awards. wonderful. i don't need it. because, you see, i've
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made enough films. i don't need it really badly. like some 24—year—old kid, i've made 70 films now. at the beginning, you said you haven't stopped. and you said not so long ago, you said "i think cinema can express our collective dreams more than any other medium." yes. is that still true today? in the world you described of special effects and computer games? i do believe, yes. whatever it is, yes. there is a great bandwidth of cinema, including all of the big action movies from hollywood, from films like star wars, you just name it. it is good to see that. it is good for me to see that there is a wonderful type of movies like fred astaire, the most artificial and strange, weird films, they are wonderful. so movie magic, for you, that lives on? there is awe, magic,
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and i am going to hang on in. werner herzog, we hope so. thank you for being on hardtalk. thank you very much. hello there, good morning. the week that lies ahead will be very different from the weekjust gone because the next few days are looking very unsettled, which means we will see spells of rain which could be quite heavy. quite windy and you will notice things cooler on a downward trend. it's a reasonable start to the day. lighter winds than we are seeing through the weekend but we are looking out west for this low pressure to bring rain in from the west.
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a pretty reasonable start — much lighter winds and good spells of sunshine early on, but a fresh start to the day. in more rural spots, dipping into single figures. a bright start for many. some good spells of sunshine. but out west, that low pressure system pushing its way into the west of ireland. that is making progress northwards and eastwards, and will continue to do so. a lovely start in many places with a good deal of sunshine. that will turn a bit cloudier across wales and the south—west of england. as this area of low pressure shows its hand, there will be some cloud and rain working its way into northern ireland. they'll bring a shower but the eastern side of england, lengthy spells of sunshine. 2a in london but only 14 degrees in aberdeenshire. this evening, that rain making slow progress northwards and eastwards. quite wet by the end of the night, quite windy as well in scotland and dribs and drabs of rain
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into northern england and possibly north wales. tuesday, the south, another area of low pressure drifting in from the near continent. this may bring some thundery downpours to southern counties. we start off quite wet and windy in northern ireland which eases away to the east, improving here maybe with a few showers in the afternoon. quite wet and windy for much of scotland. further south, potentially some thundery showers and a messy picture on tuesday afternoon. 21 degrees on monday for london but only 12 degrees in aberdeen. tuesday night and wednesday, some thundery rain moving northward in a broad area of rain across england and wales, up into southern scotland. by the middle of the week, this huge area of low pressure affecting much of central and western europe. things will be cooling down here. a pretty tricky forecast trying to get the detail right but at the moment, it looks as if we are going to see some wetter, windy weather across much of northern england
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and with the breeze coming in, the north sea coastal areas will be on the cool side, that is for sure. this is bbc news. i'm tim willcox. our top stories: a crowded passenger boat sinks at a busy colombian resort. six people have died — 16 are missing. fierce resistance in the last push for mosulm, islamic state militants make a final stand against advancing iraqi troops. a huge forest fire sweeps through southern spain — threatening one of the country's most important nature reserves. and in business: the biggest recall in automotive history leads
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to the bankrupcty courts.
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