courses / Spring 2012 / Auteur in Film

Spring 2012

132T - Auteur in Film

Instructor  Linda Williams

Werner Herzog may be best known for his fictional feature films but he has always made non-fiction films right alongside his fictions. Arguably, his non-fiction films constitute his best work. Errol Morris is a non-fiction filmmaker who challenged documentary orthodoxy by staging re-enactments and, like Hergoz, blurred the lines between fact and fiction. This course studies and compares the careers of these two distinctive authors. Although authorship is usually discussed in relation to filmmakers who make a distinctive mark in the realm of fiction, we will be interested in the non-fictions of these two great directors who have so importantly re-invented the genre they refuse to call “documentary.” The influence of Herzog on Morris is well-known. Herzog promised to eat his shoe if Morris ever finished a film and did so when Morris finished Gates of Heaven. Less well-recognized is the subsequent influence of Morris on Herzog, as evident in Herzog’s most recent Into the Abyss. We will begin by comparing two “pinnacle” films of both directors and then dig into selected films of first Herzog and then Morris. We will explore the romantic landscapes of Herzog in relation to what could be called the “face/scapes” of Morris. Together Herzog and Morris will offer important points of comparison in the way non-fiction films seek to portray many different qualities and kinds of  “truth”.

Required Reading
  • Brad Prager, The Cinema of Werner Herzog: Aesthetic Ecstasy and Truth (London and New York: Wallflower Press 2007)
  • Paul Cronin, Herzog on Herzog (New York: Faber and Faber 2002)
  • Livia Bloom, Errol Morris Interviews (Jackson Miss: Mississippi University Press, 2010)
  • Course Reader from Copy/Replica, 2140 Oxford