Transcript: Werner Herzog and Eric Weinstein – The Portal Podcast Episode 3

The following transcript was generated by a machine and not edited by any human – so it’s full of of errors. I’m posting the transcript because the podcast is excellent and a crappy transcript is better than no transcript. Questions/comments: get me on Twitter @mgmobrien.

Eric Weinstein 0:03
Hello, you found the portal. I’m your host, Eric Weinstein and this will be our second interview episode to be released. I think we have something really remarkable for you today because we have a human being whose little life that even though he makes movies that are fictional, I would say that his actual nonfiction life is more interesting than any movie he’s ever made. This is a person who has been shot on camera, a person who is stolen, who is forged and who’s taught other filmmakers to steal and to forge.

The person I’m talking about is Verner Hertzog. Now, I first became aware of Verner Hertzog when I was 16 and just entering the University of Pennsylvania and a friend of mine said, You’ve got to see this movie Fitzcarraldo. I said, What is Fitzcarraldo? He says, If nothing else, it’s a story about a man so possessed by an ED fix, that he drags a boat over a mountain in the jungle in order to somehow build an office. warehouse and the whole thing sounded incredibly mad. And in fact, what was so interesting about this film was is that the director actually had to do in real life what the crazy fictional character did inside of the storyline. This led me to a fascination with today’s interview subject, Verner Hertzog. This is a man who has lived so richly and so profoundly that I actually started to get a different idea about what he was doing as a filmmaker. The idea that I could not shake was that Verner Hertzog needed to live so deeply and so profoundly that he had to make movies simply to justify what it meant to be Verner Hertzog. Now, I’ve often asked myself this question, what is it the great generals do between wars? It’s hard to imagine, let’s say a patent or a MacArthur in normal times. Do they just sit around and open Dry Cleaners do they write essays for their local newspaper? What is a window In World War Two, when in such a situation, I think it’s very hard to come up with an answer. But I think that the best answer that I have is that these people would make movies. Following interview was recorded in front of a live audience, we join the conversation in progress. May I just ask first of all, before I try any theories of the kind, do you see any clear organizing principle that unifies your output that is sort of subtle and non obvious to your audience?

Werner Herzog 2:36
Yes, I do believe so. People are quite often puzzled about the range of the subjects that have attracted me there’s a world champion ski flier from Switzerland and there is a Paleolithic cave and there’s a man who moves a ship over a mountain in the Peruvian changhie. And there’s a film on Internet in the case of film, you just name it. So, and it’s looks perplexing at first sight. But I do understand, although I don’t like to look back at my films, to have my eye to understand that there’s some sort of an architecture of concepts and that’s you would immediately understand there is a common worldview, very much is about a worldview. And you could probably spot it very, very quickly. If you walked into a room and the TV was playing, and there was a film within an hour and you didn’t see any credits. Probably within two minutes you would understand this must have been my film. People see they understand it, how they do it. I don’t know and how To create this common worldview, I don’t know either but it doesn’t really matter.

Eric Weinstein 4:07
Now, one of the things that I’ve been very struck by which is what we all get wrong about Verner Hertzog and because many of the stories that come out of these films in these undertakings involve tremendous seeming danger, physical risks, chaos madnesses, all the things that are usually associated. I was trying to figure out what it was that those stories might cover up as if sort of cheap icing on a very rich cake. And one of the things that I saw was what? And correct me if I’m wrong, it seems like you have tremendous concern for the people that you bring out on to these crazy projects for their safety and well being. Am I getting that wrong?

Werner Herzog 4:53
No. We shouldn’t waste any time of what’s some people get wrong about me. It doesn’t really matter let them be wrong. But one of the things that comes up quite often seems to be an identification of the creator of the story a creator of character, namely me with the qualities that the creator automatically has to have. In other words, if I do a film like I carry the wrath of God, about a demented crazed Conquistador, 1560s in the Peruvian Amazon, people quite often are misled. to point out Hertzberg must have these qualities obsessive in demented and borderline paranoia. And so, no, they are. I understand them, but they are not my quality invention, sir,

Eric Weinstein 5:54
but you picked an actor in Klaus Kinski. Who might I mean, I would venture to They did have some of those qualities Is that wrong? And they No Actually,

Werner Herzog 6:03
of course, of course, he had it a part of being a, an actor who was really under the grace of creation to, to to make things that we have not seen before halftone screen, so, but otherwise he was the mildest I could express would be, he was the ultimate pestilence, but he was also destructive, he would destroy a set. He would, when we had a, we actually had two plane crashes on Fitzcarraldo, smaller aircraft. And we didn’t know what had happened. We had a very sketchy shortwave radio connection with Iquitos about 1500 kilometers away, and garbled messages would come in, plainest out down in We desperately tried. Was it nearby could we say

Without a search party or what who was important what had happened, and we had a habit in in our camper, sometimes on days where we would start in the afternoon and shoot into the night, breakfast would be served from hot It’s too hot, too hot. And so the last hat would have cold coffee this morning by quit incident Kinski was a last hat. And I heard it from from hundred 50 yards away screaming out. I mean, a complete not not just a tantrum. It was it was just an outburst of rage, because his coffee was lukewarm. And he stormed at the place where we were checking on the radio and trying to figure out and he kept screaming and screaming. I could not calm him down. I could not get him away. I tried to tell him there’s a plane down. You have to keep quiet. We must listen to to what has happened. And it wasn’t

Help it all. I would scream and he would scream he could scream a class into, he could shatter a glass of wine class. He it really I mean it I do not exaggerate. And so the only reason the only way I could after an hour and a half, when he had already frost hardened, frothing at his, at his mouth, I went to my heart and I hit a little piece of Swiss chocolate left, which I people would murder for such a treasure in our camp. And I stepped in front of him and ate this chocolate and that silenced him there was that there was something which was stunning. And you knew you intuited, that this would have that effect, I should have have the intuition after five minutes, it took over an hour. So that problem is said quite often quality tease of the characters in my films have been super imposed on my on my own character. For example, I’ve acted in some Hollywood films in some independent films check Reacher for example. And I’m playing the real real dangerous bad aspect guy and in a very, very dangerous in the head too. And I’m armed in the half no fingers left and and I am blind on one eye and yet I had to spread terror from the screen and I did it so well. I did it so well that my reviews were much better than the reviews for Tom Cruise. No, it’s true. It’s not exaggerating. I was good, but it not that I can say this kind of vile dangerous character is really in me

Unknown Speaker 9:59

Werner Herzog 10:00
It became very easy. I did it unprepared. You see, and I have learned that when we did Fitzcarraldo in the first round of shooting, there was Mick Jagger’s sidekick of the leading character and Jagger spent some six weeks with us. In the jungle we shot half the film had to stop because a leading character became ill. We had to send him to the states and doctors wouldn’t allow him to return to the Johnny so I knew I had to start all over again and Don Jagger’s contract, there was no time enough left for doing the whole film all over. I shot the film actually one and a half times. into what what what is strange about this recasting, and in restarting the whole thing, I knew if I did not find an actor quickly, in such a case, I had no alternative But playing the part may myself because I would have been credible in that would have been good. Not as good as let’s say Mick Jagger and Jason robots are Kinski. And I learned one thing from from Mick Jagger, which astonished me. He took me once backstage when they were recording and I was there and and he was arguing with somebody about some totally trivial things completely and utterly trivial things. And also on my set, he was arguing about the mineral water about the per diem or something. And I said to him make the cameras rolling. And he looked at me and he sees we are already doing it and he steps, three steps in in front of the camera, and within three steps, he becomes a demon From a trivial, trivial little Pickering mediocre kind of character, he steps in front and he’s a demon. And in that, in a way I learned that from him, and I didn’t prepare myself I when I stepped in front of the camera, I knew there was only one thing become NP frightening. And I can do it. Yeah, and I would accept it only because I knew I could do it.

Eric Weinstein 12:33
So you’re really not the ultimate badass

Werner Herzog 12:37
because I can’t, maybe I am, but unbeknownst to me,

Eric Weinstein 12:42
Well, okay. It feels to me like I was just watching video view video of you being interviewed by the BBC. And then probably your shot in the abdomen while being interviewed. And you seem to be somewhat

Werner Herzog 12:56

Eric Weinstein 12:57
somewhat irritated that the interviewer is treating this is a big deal and like this otherwise how would I know that you were Paisley underwear? I mean you take your your pants down

Werner Herzog 13:09
at it when you’re

Eric Weinstein 13:10
leading yeah and you’re like why is it it’s not that big of a bullet that’s that was your added note that

Werner Herzog 13:16
actually I said something were beautiful I said this is an insignificant Buddha That’s true. So and in I knew it it had not perforated everything it went through my check it in the catalog in the pocket it everything but didn’t perforate into my intestine so that was insignificant but they immediately hit the hit the ground. The camera fled. And I had the feeling stay Let’s finish at least a sentence It was

Eric Weinstein 13:48
great video.

Werner Herzog 13:50
I mean, for them. It was great video

Eric Weinstein 13:52
would have been it but but what I’m trying to suggest, sir, is that you are the unreliable narrator you are

Werner Herzog 13:59
no no no, no Makes sense? No, no, no. I’m the one who makes sense. I’m the one who puts order into a chaotic situation. That’s

Eric Weinstein 14:07
what you did. But when I’m what I’m saying is, is that when your autonomic nervous system is is triggered, it barely registers you’ve been shot in the abdomen it registered it hurt

Werner Herzog 14:17
it read it twice a year, because when I was laughing hard, it was still hurting. Yeah. Yes, but there’s a sense of duty

Eric Weinstein 14:26
that I very much appreciate. But that’s very unusual these

Werner Herzog 14:30
days, but it’s part of being a good soldier of cinema that I try to be well that a sense of duty, a sense of. You have to be reliable. You have to hold an outpost that others have given up. It’s loyalty. It’s in its loyalty to the entire crew that was here. However, they they argued, we should call the police right away and I said, Let’s not do it. Because Do you want to spend The next six hours in a police station to file charges into you’re going to see helicopters circling their interior want to see a SWAT team in 10 minutes flat, right? Do you want to see that? My answer is no. But it’s okay let’s move out of the danger zone because the main with a with a rifle was still somewhere hiding on on terrorists in hiding now inside the building get get out of there. But let’s continue. Let’s continue this all your team has come from, from the UK and you have to return tomorrow. Let’s get over with it.

Eric Weinstein 15:39
So it’s a sense of duty. I appreciate that very much. But I mean, what you’re talking about is the highest levels of discipline and military style leadership. I mean, this is goes far beyond.

Werner Herzog 15:52
Yes, but you should be careful about confusing it with military discipline where there’s Some sort of blind adherence to given orders. I do think I do think what I’m doing and I do not ask anyone to do blindly something in front of the camera, but there’s a safety margin whenever things are difficult in danger, let’s say borderline dangerous. I would always do it myself first for the actor. I would go through the rapids with a small raft to see. Does a raft survive these three consecutive rapids right? Very simple thing. Christian Bale in rescue dawn. He plays a chairman board and Navy pilot, who is shot down 40 minutes in his first mission over Vietnam allows. He actually was the only American POW who managed to escape from partied last into Vietcong captivity, an incredible story and Christian Bale who plays a part of him and they’re starving to death, almost starving to death, and they get some food that is infested by hundreds and hundreds of Wrigley maggots. And we use magnets that native people would eat, but they would roast them, not not alive in still wriggling. So and I said to Christian, that was what detangler the real character tells me they had to do there were nutrients, a lot of nutrients in these maggots ate it. And I said to Christian, you know what, give me the plate and give me a spoon. I’m gonna eat a few spoonfuls, which I did. And he said, Come on, stop it, stop it. I let’s roll the camera in. I’m gonna get over it quickly. So he Did and that was one of the very, very few moments of controversy between the two of us, because I told him and he didn’t hear it. Apparently I told him Chris in the email, but you stop eating when you really have when you had it. And he kept eating, eating, eating until the plate is empty, and then I say, cut. And he said, Why didn’t you say cut before by what what happened? And I said, Chris, you are the one who should have cut, set cut, but he didn’t hear it. And he was kind of miffed but but those those moments say they do happen and and in the unexpected on a set. That’s movies.

Unknown Speaker 18:50

Eric Weinstein 18:53
Right. They, I guess those moments do happen. So it does strike me though that

Werner Herzog 18:57
I tested it. First, you said go do that always

Eric Weinstein 19:02
test it first seems like that’s the, you know, the Israelis have a theory of leadership which is called follow me where they take the highest value person on the team, the the general of the colonel and he goes into danger first because the morale of the troops is so much heightened when when you see a leader saying I will actually take that kind of risk. That seems to be a part of this. unethical law

Werner Herzog 19:27
is a very long tradition. Alexander the Great, for example, always on foot with his soldiers, he would not ride on his horse, he would be on foot thousands of miles, he would be the first to to climb the ramparts on a ladder. He would be the one who when they were thirsty and almost died from thirst. One soldier collected a helmet full of water bit by bit drop by drop. And and when when the thirst was at its worst. This foot foot man comes in steps in front of Alexandra and says, I saved this for you drink this. And Alexander looks at it in spills it away and he says too much for one too little for all and marches on. So let’s leadership or have anybody who crossed the Alps on elephants he would sleep with his soldiers at the outpost wrapped in his in his coat, and he would lose an eye crossing an ice cold river south of the Alps, and he would do things that nobody else in his army would ever do.

Eric Weinstein 20:47
Do you feel that this aspect of leadership of putting oneself in the greatest situations of risk and harm is no you avoid

Werner Herzog 20:57
harm if possible, of course, but you you eliminate harm before it even appears. You see you You have to be prudent. And in any kind of business including the business of warfare, you you have to evaluate a situation and you have to try to to avoid the danger of for anyone, the leader and in the troop you better stay out of it. And you you use all sorts of military tricks, trickery, deceit, right? You use ambushes you use the so called cowardly things. And before you really put anyone into very grave danger, eliminate whatever you can sometimes you can’t eliminate everything but cheat shores of course a lie and lie and I liked by the way comes to Maine Jesse Ventura, who used to be a bodyguard of the Rolling Stones, by the way, and he used to be a studio wrestler who played the bad guy, by the way in the ring, completely stylized, and he became governor of Minnesota. And I always liked him for his down to earth approach. And he said once about his time, in the ring as a wrestler, it’s just one of these WrestleMania people and he said, When if you can lose, if you must, but always cheat. So I really liked him for that.

Eric Weinstein 22:45
Yeah. So this is one of the things that I found most endearing about your approach is that you teach film in this completely different fashion. It’s let’s be honest, you’re an outlaw. before you’re a filmmaker and you say to your students, you have to be prepared to steal to forge to pick locks to do whatever it takes

Werner Herzog 23:08
forge documents, but steal. You see, I wouldn’t say steal. I have stolen once in a while but more expropriation than stealing, then theft. Like my first camera was expropriated from an institution, but do anything that’s outside of the legal norms as long as it as it does not hurt anyone and into forging a shooting permit in a country that has a military dictatorship. ship is something fine and you should do it you for it for its you must Yeah.

So you have to do it. So

Eric Weinstein 23:52
definitely try this at home. All right, so you’re in you break into countries as honestly student visa that might severely punish you if they found out that you were filming you did this in China.

Werner Herzog 24:06
I know not. Well, yes, I did in China filming in the westernmost part koshka near cash car, where there was a extremely high military and police presence. And I was filming with my kid Shannon. But we had no shooting permit, no working permit, we just went out to a local market, a very traditional market of weak word tribesmen, a cattle market. And

there was the real

obvious thing was that we had a contraption built on the body of making shaman, a tripod that held the camera in front of his face. So when he walks into a crowd, everybody who walks by would inevitably turn around and look around After him I wanted this effect everybody staring at him once he’s moving through a crowd. And he said to me when I’m gonna do it as long as you’re around next to me, because if I get arrested, you should be arrested as well. And I said, Fine, let’s do it. And in because it was so brazen, it was so brazen that nobody actually stopped us. There was a lot of police and when you have one or two police people bend, it’s dangerous because they would arrest you or they would stop you at least in check you out. But if you have 17 1820 of them, there’s a strange psychological reflects. Everybody thinks I are the other one will stop you. And you walk straight through the middle whether and I keep saying where the enemy comes at it. It’s thickest. Walk straight through there and I look it into Some sort of a vague distance is if I had spotted a friend 50 yards away and I walk with his gaze upon them in while I pass him, I say something in my variant dialect, I say hostile and haptic saying, Have you seen my friend had it? And they step aside and I’m out. So, you have to you have to understand the heart of men. And you have to understand the way police would, would react in in what would they do? It’s so brazen that nobody of the Chinese Han Chinese police would ever suspect we will have working without any permits at all.

Unknown Speaker 26:49
Yeah, now, in

Eric Weinstein 26:51
in our time, there’s this mania for truth and authenticity and for acknowledging There’s always the group and never the individual that matters. The so called great man theory of history is certainly at its cultural low. And yet here you are talking to us about the need to deceive, to break the law and to affirm the violent act of creation in a very strong leadership context in which you’re taking on all of this additional risk just to impart, inspire and and protect your people even you seem to be a man completely out of out of time with the current era. It seems to suit you find is that wrong? Not really. There are a few others but I wish there were more.

Werner Herzog 27:44
But, of course what what we are doing in filmmaking is not always based on boardroom decision. The way we’ve shaped the dialogue today in the Hollywood industry is determined by boardroom decision. And and that’s why moviemaking has become so stale and so uninteresting and so predictable. So if you do the the most, the wildest of the stories and that’s all we said counts You see, I do not step outside the boundaries of locality, it has to do with with a caliber of your quest with the depth of your story with a vision that you are pursuing, if that has real real depth and you know it has enduring depth. Then you have you have the task and the duty to do the things that are necessary. As long as I said, as you do not damage or hurt anyone

Eric Weinstein 28:48
else. You are taking a fair amount of responsibility. We had Jim Watson come to this office and he he’s he the CO discoverer of the three dimensional structure of DNA of Watson and Crick. Oh yeah. Oh, case. Yeah, yes. But he, he said something which was, you know, I found very disturbing, but also very sensible. He said, you’re given about five opportunities to really level up in your life. This was how he saw it. And he said, You have to take each one of those, even though sometimes each of them comes with an opportunity where somebody may be put at risk or hurt. And I was curious, you have a very strong relationship with risk where you’re both putting people at risk and trying to make sure you put them at risk as little as possible. If both of those are true. Do you believe that? Let’s say Watson was correct that you have to take these opportunities, even if they do put others at risk, or do you really have a no harm?

Werner Herzog 29:46
Well, I think it’s more than five opportunities in your life these things have, I’ve seen 100 times. This these moments in risk taking per se has now is now great value. It depends on what you’re doing and and what kind of purpose is. And it’s not a quality per se to take risks. I try to, to avoid risks in in DC. My proof that I have been prudent circumspect and well organized is that in over 70 films, not a single one of my actors ever was hurt, not one. I was hurt sometimes. Sometimes it has been some very close collaborator physically next to me like a cinematographer with a 20 kilo a hen tailed camera at a time heavy flies through the air and the dictates of a ship that bangs into Yeah, into the rock. And yes, and we were flying some 10 meters and he bangs with his hand On the on the tech in the cameras split his hand apart. So yes it happens in he didn’t mind by the way

Eric Weinstein 31:08
where he volunteered right? Am I right? Of course you said every every set who’s coming with me? Nobody has to.

Werner Herzog 31:15
Yeah, sure. And actually, in this case when we went with cameras through the rapids that end we had shot the sequence with cameras on on this. There’s no real source but in the rocks on either sides of these rapids. I was even pushed by some collaborators. We should have a camera on board. I said Really? Yes, of course I see that but but we do not know what’s going to happen. It may sink, what happens then it the ship probably is not going to sink because we established it with a lot of variables, very solid ad chambers in there. It’s probably wouldn’t have sunk

even under the worst of case scenarios? Well, let me ask you a very,

Eric Weinstein 32:07
very difficult question that some that you’re we’re trying to make Fitzcarraldo, in which you drag this in steamer over a mountain. And it’s not the year 1982, but it’s some year, maybe around now maybe a few years in the future where it’s possible to do this completely with computer generated imagery. So you could do it in CGI. Now my question would be this would if it produced the same visual effect

Werner Herzog 32:36
as you did in Fitzcarraldo, would it be worth doing if it could be done cheaply and safely? Now it doesn’t, it doesn’t create the same effect. And even the five year old six year old viewers know it. This was a digital effect, and you will always know it. I don’t think that digital effects will ever create Some sort of have an equal experience, maybe to some degree visually but you see an moving a ship over a mount means you’re exposing yourself to things that are unthinkable and unexpected. you incorporate in your approach. The the totally unknown, in the totally unknown invades you in the unexpected in the unthinkable invades your every hour. And you create something an authenticity of story, not only visual effect, you create an authenticity of event that is unparalleled, and it’s unparalleled by anyone who is sitting in on a computer and creates a steamboat moving up on a hill. It does not end it will not So in the future,

Eric Weinstein 34:01
you have you’re quite confident

Werner Herzog 34:03
because the

the experience of a thing in rooted in reality cannot be replaced. It can be substituted it can be somehow paralleled in a way by, by an artificial world by digital effects. I until today I would, I would still insist I should, if it’s me who does it, I should move the ship in one piece. 360 tons, right? And let the others do their stuff, and it will be inferior to mine.

Eric Weinstein 34:45
Well, this is this is just it. I mean, you mentioned professional wrestling and Jesse Ventura. And you know that there is a theory amongst our group that maybe professional wrestling is a lot more real than anyone. one really wants to believe that it’s commonly thought to be fake. One interpretation of your work, sir, is that you are making many more documentaries than you claim to be because in fact in something like Fitzcarraldo, it’s a fictional story about a man moving a ship over a mountain, made by real man who moved a real ship over a real mountain. And I remember when it came out in 1982, my I was in college we were electrified by this concept that if it had been done in CGI, and we had known that it would been in CGI, we would not have been that interested in the story, but it was the fact that there was an insane man moving a ship over a mountain in reality, clinically sane, man clinically sorry, we’re a mountain. I don’t want to you want access to dispersions Yeah, but but functionally, sir. It’s a it is a crazy quest and you spoke about it. It’s not a crazy question. Give me those terms.

Werner Herzog 35:54
No, no, no, it’s not a crazy question. It was doable. Yeah. And you and I to the two of you. Yeah, you see you do not go out and try to, let’s say go to Mars and spend their half a year on Mars and in covery and getting footage, you will fail. It’s not gonna work. And we will see the technological utopia is coming to an end in our very century or very century like we saw social utopias coming to an inevitable end in the last century, communism paradise on earth, Nazi ism, a master race dominating the planet, and on so we will see so to the to, to the to the end, I knew it was doable, because I had figured out how to move a very very heavy object in one piece on top of a hill for exam

Eric Weinstein 36:55
trying to figure out the how the ancients

Werner Herzog 36:57
move Yes, Neolithic peoples will

Eric Weinstein 36:59
say more How you solve that? You saw that as a puzzle.

Werner Herzog 37:03
I was searching the coastline of Brittany for completely different movie. And I ended up at night when it was already target carnac. It’s 4000 miniatures, these slabs of stone erected in parallel lines, Hill uphill, downhill uphill down. It’s, it’s stunning. And what I saw in the headlights was studying, and I slept in the car and next morning I I see there is a little kiosk they sold Porsche. And in the brochure, it’s written that this couldn’t have been done by Neolithic people. They didn’t have any technology. Yes, I had a rope and things like this. It could have been only alien astronauts. And I thought, now we’ll sit I can let I will not move from this place until I as a net analytic person could do it. So what I would do is let’s assume I have the rock already three 400 tons, I would need disciplined men to build a ramp but maybe one kilometer ramp which has hardly any inclination, which is almost flat. At the end, it would end up in a 10 meter high hill and I would take a crater hole into the hill, and then I would move then I would move the the stone on oak trunks on hardened oak trunks, and it’s very easy to move it either with turnstiles in ropes or pushing it in a way with levers and at the end it would drop into the crater hole. And then you would have it erect with a heavier part up and then it would remove the hill until, let’s say Sticking only into two meters of grounded hardened the crowd. So we would have it erected and I kept paddling about one mania the heaviest ever 1100 tons heavy near the coastal place Lochmaddy IKEA, not too far from karmic. In this stone, this slab was broken into four pieces in the major, the biggest of all pieces, at least six 700 tons heavy, was aligned in one direction and a little bit further out. The rest of the fragmentation was perfectly aligned in one line. So why does this happen if if that stone falls, it breaks, it will align the fragments but it didn’t. So I think what has happened is that they move the stone dropped it into a hole and it broke, it broke at the rim. And in the in the smaller fragments aligned in thousands of years later, due to erosion. Some of these manias fall over topple over indeed toppled over in a different in the wrong direction. So an accident, a Neolithic accident which must have happened, spoke to my theory, as if it was proof of malware how I would do it. And that’s how I move the shape of the bound. Wow. So, in I knew it was doable. If it was doable for nearly three people 7000 years ago, I can do the same thing as well. I have no doubt whatsoever. And in an ideal case, you would according to primitive laws of physics, you could have one single child pulling it Over The Mountain, let’s say you introduced a police system of 10,000 fold, returns, you pull on a string, five miles until the ship moves 50 yards, and the child could pull it over a mountain. So you have to think you have to think the bold ideas, but also those that are outside the common trend. It can only have been the the alien astronauts that I showed you because I’m very proud of it. You should try to get hold of it because it’s very interesting. It’s called the vanishing area paradox. I keep it in my agenda all the time. And it was published in the Scientific American

in it’s very strange to have You have a configuration of elements of, of pieces. And when you rearrange the configuration of these, all of a sudden there’s an empty space of something that has filled out the entire space without a millimeter in between. And I kept thinking about it, because it defies all my experience with reality. So within my reality, it is unthinkable. It is impossible. So in I kept thinking about it, and I was misled. The whole thing is a hoax. It turns out, it’s a hoax. It’s fraudulent. And it gives it a certain veracity because it’s was posed this vanishing area paradox. The question is posed in the Scientific American, you do not believe that they are cheating you in the cheating In what what what is happening is when when you look at it very, very precisely, the area where all of a sudden in the middle there is an empty space has been artificially made slightly larger by giving slight slight more anxious in the in the straight lines in summing up creates a little empty space. Yeah, in a, I solved it myself, because I thought I cannot solve it because it defies my sense of reality, in the sense of reality of everyone around me. Something is wrong, what could be wrong? What could be wrong? And I I started to check in one of the questions I asked myself, could it be that this is a hoax that this is a fraud? If it’s a fraud, how do they cheat you How do they cheat your senses? senses of observation in this case?

Eric Weinstein 44:06
Well, that touches on something that fascinated me. There’s a quote of yours where apparently you were facing a booming audience blowing at you. And you had the sense to say to them, you are all wrong.

Werner Herzog 44:19
Sure, endeavor all wrong. They

Eric Weinstein 44:21
were all wrong. Yes. What is it in you? That has the courage to stand up to seemingly, I don’t know, arbitrary levels of negativity to problems of that other people think are insoluble where they have to invoke ancient aliens. There’s something so disagreeable about your personality, that you’re capable of shepherding an idea through that much negativity? What what what trait is that?

Werner Herzog 44:51
Well, it was a specific case when I was filming the fires in Kuwait in the first place. In the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein’s retreating army set every single oil well on fire, and I filmed it in a way that it looks as if it was shot on a like a science fiction film. It cannot be our planet and yet we know it must have been filmed on our planet. And so it’s highly aesthetic, highly stylized, and in the immediate outcry was a steady sizing of the horror. But it wasn’t really hard. It was not horrify any human being nobody got burnt. Of course, it was a crime against creation itself, obscuring the sky for a wide wide area and in something that should not happen. Not only crime against the human race, it was a crime against Creation and in this screaming people actually spat at me when I walked through the central island that somehow reinforced my resolve and I stepped up in I said, Dante’s Inferno Hey Stan exactly the same here Ronnie moose Porsche has done exactly the same in his hellish visions in Korea in this disaster esta la cara has done the same thing and and and, and then the end asset and you are all wrong. So do we have to burn the book? The Divine committee now? Do we have to? Of course we don’t. Well, someone did that as a as an amount of certainty in me that it’s not really anything that I can say was bold. It was totally natural to say that.

Eric Weinstein 46:58
Yeah, I mean to me, it Sort of strikes me is we need people to inspire us by showing us that it’s not only possible that it’s necessary to stand up to large numbers of people inside of a crowd. Now one of

Werner Herzog 47:13
the things that we could if it was literally the entire crowd,

Unknown Speaker 47:17
the entire print, yeah,

Werner Herzog 47:18
well, that’s how I perceived it walking down the central aisle. They’re probably worth an amount of well wishes and there must have been also some applause but it it was overwhelming. It was so overwhelming that some some very credible reviewers like Amos smokey, who wrote for The Village Voice describes the scene. He described it so it’s not a figment of my fantasy.

Eric Weinstein 47:50
You know that there’s this very strange story with the reviewer Joe Morgenstern when he first saw Bonnie and Clyde. He gave it a terrible review because the violence was So disturbing and it was set to up tempo, happy music. And he said, Well, this is an abomination. And then strangely, a week or two later, he said, I have to review this film again. I was totally wrong. The film is a masterpiece because it took a while to just understand that that wasn’t an error, but it was actually a brilliant artistic choice. Do you find that? You do not find it nowadays? Anybody?

Werner Herzog 48:23
No one would have been 40 years ago, somebody had the nerve and the guts and the caliber to declare himself wrong in taking a new fresh look at it.

So you hardly see it at all.

Eric Weinstein 48:40
So let me ask I would love to ask you one final question before opening it up to the audience. You’ve spoken quite a lot for a filmmaker about the importance of reading and the written word. You’ve written obviously, beautifully in so many of your thoughts in this guide for the perplexed and you see You have previously spoken about how television was turning us into idiots and dumbing us down and that reading would be the the key quality that determined who would inherit power and in the future world. What do you see in the 21st century, as having changed in this equation with television having gotten much better in the internet having seemingly gotten us into a state where we weren’t even able to get there with with the idiot boxes? Well,

Werner Herzog 49:31
television hasn’t gotten that much better in some segments. Yes. In these long, limited many season, big stories that all of a sudden you can narrate large, large, expansive farms like war and peace. So all of a sudden, we can create Dostoyevsky, on a TV screen on Netflix screens or whatever. Of course, the situation is become more perfect. carriers with the advent of the Internet. But, of course, sad forces set I’ve started way, way before the internet, we cannot blame it on. For example, people who would read half the numbers have declined considerably since 50 years or so, in today in universities, even humanities or even classics department where they should read ancient Greek and Latin. They do not read any more and they have a hard time and I’ve witnessed it. I’ve witnessed it in person. They are not even capable of, of writing three coherent signs and expressing one coherent, brief argument. And that’s alarming. It’s alarming and in, that’s why I tell you Young, aspiring filmmakers, yes, watch films into whatever you need to learn in technical terms, but read, read, read, read, read, read, if you don’t read, you will be a filmmaker but mediocre at best. If you really want to become somebody of significance, and everyone who is around at this time of significance is reading, they’re all reading everyone. And you are not. And it’s not only for filmmaking, it’s probably in your profession. The same thing, you cannot lose yourself in, in algorithms sent in. In software questions sent in articulating things without conceptually being up to, to a to a very high standard of, of evolution of not only technology, but civilization per se. We have a very, very Deep task. In reading in my opinion, this is the thing that is absolutely needed. And what I keep saying sometimes, but nobody will understand it, but I say it anyway, traveling on foot. And irrespective of the distance, and I’ve done very long distance traveling on foot gives you an insight into the world itself. And I can say it only in a dictum and I’ve repeated it before the world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. Nothing else does is such clarity and such transparents nothing, nothing. And yet nobody travels on foot. It doesn’t matter Stay where you are, but I just say it as a as a sign of help. If you really want to understand the real world. And also, conceptually where we are standing as human beings at this very moment in history, travel on foot and read.

Eric Weinstein 53:11
The Fantastic advice, let’s see if we can, anybody can follow it. And I would love to open it up to questions. What questions do we have for nerds?

Unknown Speaker 53:22
If there is a motor wish generation to read, what will it be?

Werner Herzog 53:29
Oh, it’s I. I don’t want to give you one or two books because any we sit down and you would read them and you think Yeah, you have done it. So you should not read two books, but 2000 books. But I give you for those who are into creative things and including, I would say including even creative forms of mathematics. It’s a it’s a book written by an obscure British writer published in 1967, and it’s called the Peregrine about watching its diaries watching peregrine falcons. At a time when the Falcons were almost extinct. Che Baker, I think we now only after a few decades, we even know what j and A stands for. I even don’t know what his first names weren’t his middle name. And the tests pro said we have not seen since since Joseph Conrad. And it has precision of observing a small segment of the real world with a precision and also with an emphasis in the end the passion that is unprecedented in literature. So in whatever you’re doing, whether you’re a musician or a filmmaker, into mathematics or into computers, this kind of very, very deep, relentless passion For what you are doing very specific, and it’s a it’s a great, wonderful book, and what else? There are many but I have a list of mandatory books for my rogue film school and some guerilla style, antithesis to film schools. And there’s five or six books what comes to mind is, we have novelty Estelle Castillo, the discovery and conquest of New Spain. That original title is much, much longer. He was a footman of Cortez. And when he was old, he wrote, from his apparently some diaries and reminiscences he writes down an incredible story, incredibly rich in details and insight into the into the heart of men.

Anything else read read the Russians read

the lean and Kleist, the Germans.

Also German read Hemingway read Joseph Conrad the short stories in particular. So

but but don’t Don’t,

don’t believe that this would make you into a into a different person. It’s it’s the permanence of reading, the insistence of reading,

Unknown Speaker 56:37
feeling to use Can you speak up?

Unknown Speaker 56:40
Is it more fulfilling for you to expose people to nuance where they thought the word extremes are the reverse?

Unknown Speaker 56:49
Is it more important to expose people to nuance or more fulfilling

Unknown Speaker 56:54
and expose people to nuance where they had thought there was extreme or the opposite

Werner Herzog 57:02
I have never asked myself this question it doesn’t factor in my, in my work well, I I follow a very, very clear vision I see a film very very clearly. And of course it has, it has a big story and it has extremes in it and detest nuances. In the end of course, I would never want to touch a story that was not really big. When I was convinced this is big and it has excesses in detest all sorts of things at the same time, then the real life. The real life comes from the NEOSS and from the details so that it’s a cannot even separate it. I cannot give you a satisfying juxtaposition of both but

it’s it’s Doesn’t it doesn’t function in a way I make my films about

bolt cutters. Well that’s

bolt cutters you have to take metaphorically. I have a whole list of of things. Does anyone have the book guide for the perplexed here? Because I see it here on the Can Can you give it to me please? Thank you a guide for the perplexed and we spoke about before. The title is so beautiful. I had to steal it from my monitors. The great Jewish philosopher, middle a Spain I think Seville or Cordoba. I don’t even remember but anyway, and and hear it on the back end. By the way, it’s a real pain. No Photoshop, my wife who sits back there did this photo. So Intel nerve. I don’t know how it was put together but it’s, it gives it sums a lot of things up. Always take it speaks of bolt cutters always take the initiative. There’s nothing wrong with spending a night in a jail cell. If it means getting the shot you meet. Send all your talks and one might return with pray. Never wallow in your travels despair must be kept private. In brief, learn to live with your with your mistakes. expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature. Old in modern. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence. So do something impressive with it. The laptop in front of you may be the last one in existence do something good in depressive with it. There’s never an excuse not to finish a film care, parry bolt cutters everywhere, Swart institutional cowardice. There’s too much institutional cowardice in the film industry. And I do believe the the computer industry and software and so has has bolder, bolder designs. I think there’s not too much institutional cowardice. It comes now after things like Facebook have been established. How do we stop excesses on Facebook? How do we stop excesses on Instagram? Do we show Do we have to stop a real beheading of a hostage in real time? Or do we not do it? So the institutionalization of of content is coming poss testim after a test been normally part in the film industry, for example, the institutional cowardice comes before you make a move. They ask you to you have to you have first for example, E and O insurance. Do we have a?

How do you call it?

Some sort of insurance completion bond?

No, I don’t and I make a film anyway, in there was, but in that case, I had to finance it out of my own pocket into Can I move in a wild way back to the very early question about something that is fabricated like WrestleMania has a lot of truth in it. They get away with bruises. And dislocated elbows. The last film I made is a feature film called family romance, LLC. romance is a business in Japan in the Japanese language where you can hire a missing friend, a family a father of a family during a wedding ceremony because the real father allegedly suffers from epilepsy. In truth, he’s an alcoholic and cannot be shown to the groom’s parents and family. And there’s an interesting thing that happens the man who actually in reality founded this company, family romance, who sends out 1600 agents into actors to help you in to feel less lonesome and replace a family member. He was filmed by Japanese television They interviewed him and they interviewed. One of his clients who had rented in his solitude had rented a friend. And he’s in the in the film as well. It turns out that the client was actually not a client. He was also a rented member from family romance. He was a he was an imposter put in front of the NHK cameras NHK apologize profusely in print and on the air, and the founder of family rail made say something very, very significant now, he says, I do believe that the imposter that was sent out from my pool of actors tells you more of the truth than a real one, the real one would lie to the cameras because in inches upenn in their society, you have to keep face. And you cannot admit that your life is miserable. And you were loud some and you were crying at home in your pillow. And so this person, the real person would not say that he would lie to the camera. But Mike, my man who was put in front of your camera, my man who is standing 200 times, comforting, solitary people. He tells you the just the real truth about what is going on. And I think he’s right.

I’m sure he’s right.

Yeah, so that’s, um, I bet your house the imposter has more truth in him, then the real person who wants to keep a facade of whatever well behaved, behavior in public.

Unknown Speaker 1:04:56
We have some other questions.

Unknown Speaker 1:04:57
For now, if you could Make a film about our generation and the generation that sits in this room. What do you think the logline would be?

Werner Herzog 1:05:08
I wouldn’t know any logline but I have, I have done a film on the internet. Lo and behold which has appealed very much to to the to your generation or even the younger ones. You are you’re already a veteran. It’s a 15 year olds who probably come up and and have to teach you that 35 year olds or 25 year old No, I would know a logline. But I have made a lot of film set. Apparently. Well for general audience when I made them 40 years ago, 45 years ago. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, all of a sudden I get emails of 15 year old young kids From Missoula, Montana, because today they can have access to the film by streaming or other ways through the internet piracy, for example, which is a successful distribution system. And into all of a sudden it’s a very, very young who respond to my films. And it’s not not foreign to me that I have always made films for those who are mentally active into into into turmoil, and to looking out for organizing their lives. So I’ve always been in a way I’ve been young and now that film in Japan is a return to the times when I was 2324 25. When I made a Gary the wrath of God, you wouldn’t know what would come up To the next bend of the river, would that be a wreck? Would that be rapids or not? So, in this kind of readiness, to, to face whatever is gonna be thrown at you, and you just face it and you deal with it.

Eric Weinstein 1:07:18
You actually in terms of the generation that is might now be rediscovering your films. Do you have any thoughts about the way in which we are going back and reevaluating, cinematic work based on our new feelings about the directors? I’m thinking of Tarantino? Who put Huma Thurman at rest at risk in Kill Bill, which I thought was a fantastic film Woody Allen, of course, with his difficulties, having his work reevaluated are we How do you feel about bodies of work being reprocessed through the lens of the alleged failures of The creators,

Werner Herzog 1:08:02
I think that will be a renascence. And we see it already, for example, classical music. All of a sudden, as I just read yesterday or today has been a new platforms on the internet, it’s all steered towards mainstream pop, all of a sudden, you can access it. For example, in movies, the Criterion Collection, which is a very, very fine collection of films, had disappeared, and reappeared apparently as it’s either independent streaming label or within MSRP. I have to find out I don’t know yet. But all of a sudden, these things are back. And the 15 year old from Missoula, Montana, is not just back his is just emerging. So now I have no doubt that we are gonna see film Said outside outside of the regular mainstream but have depth in Division and in wonderful stories they will not disappear. The shallow will disappear. The shallow of of yesterday when you look at talk show so it, it it pops shows of the 1960s it’s just stunning how how shallow they are and they disappear very quickly. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 1:09:31
There’s some other questions.

Unknown Speaker 1:09:35
You mentioned that psychological technological utopianism will end just as social utopianism and centuries. What do you think that looks like or perhaps what occupies the minds?

Werner Herzog 1:09:49
Well, when I’ve speaking about technological utopia set inevitably will come to an end. What comes to mind is immediate space space colonization. Not only is it an obscenity, it’s also undoable. obscenity because it hints it as the human race like locusts, grazing our planet empty and then moving on. We can move on to Mars, for example, but it’s, it should be contained and it’s doable for a few scientists, a few astronauts who have a small, tiny little habitat where they have enough drinking water, enough shelter against radiation, and enough air to breathe. Yes, we can create that we will not put 1 million humans on planet Mars. It’s not gonna happen. It’s technically technically not really doable and unwise, and a part of Mars. We cannot reach anything outside of our solar system, because it’s simply too far. It would Take your 110,000 years to reach the next one, which is only three and a half, four and a half light years away, we just won’t be able to do it. It’s spirit. And this kind of illusion, this kind of utopia technical utopia will come to a fairly quick end in our century, or other utopia, it come to mind. immortality, of course we can stretch out longevity to a certain point, but that’s about it. We are going to die. That’s what the entire creation everywhere and not only on our planet everywhere points to the same thing that there’s an impermanence of what is around everywhere. So that’s, that’s one of the things I have to think about other utopias too. Technically you tell PS but you are much closer to approaching technically utopia sin I am. So you you have to find out what what we should do and what we should not do and what isn’t utopia and what is within the within realities of human beings.

Eric Weinstein 1:12:24
We have time for one or two last questions.

Unknown Speaker 1:12:29
Can you speak up and

Unknown Speaker 1:12:31
I like to ask about the way you think a camera changes a real situation, the way in which you talk about the real world, Jackie camera into it, how it affects the perception of people who are aware of cameras.

Werner Herzog 1:12:50
Yeah, it’s old philosophical question in a physical question of how deep Do you insert your camera or your position is a observer. Does it change the reality that’s out there? Hopefully it does. Because I’m a creator. I’m not a observation camera in the bank that waits for 15 years and no bank robber ever shows up. So we are not, we are not the fly on the wall, I want to insert myself. I want to create, I want to mold. I want to influence my story, even the documentaries, and I do change facts, and I’m quoting now on a sheet, the French writer who said I change facts to such a degree, that they resemble truth more than reality. And it’s a wonderful way to say it. And you’ll see you have to if you are seriously asking the question with an indignant undertone. It means that you are very much fact oriented, which I don’t believe in your case, but many people are too fact oriented and cinema does not have to be. Even documentaries have to only partly be effect oriented. Because the effects do not equal truth. They do not end it’s the same thing like with family romance impose that gives you a deeper truth than the real person. And my simplest of all explanations is in I have used it many times. So, if you have heard it from me, my apologies. Michelangelo, creating the sculpture of the top. Jesus in the arms of Mary Sue face is a 33 year old men. And when you look at Mary, she’s 17. His mother is seven So, of course it’s not factually correct, but he didn’t want to cheat us or lie to us, or whatever. He just wanted to point out an essential truth or something that resembles my truth because I do not know what truth is no two mathematicians. I think only deeply religious people know what it is. So they have an easier life than those who are not religious.

Unknown Speaker 1:15:34
We have a last question.

Unknown Speaker 1:15:40
Our years ago, David Blaine, and Harvey Kareena.

Unknown Speaker 1:15:45
They had been watching film for

Unknown Speaker 1:15:50
the passion of the woodcarver sign

Unknown Speaker 1:15:55
and there’s a seat at the ends of the Raven. They Want to be very much to focus on that and find out who the raven was in planes? Like we couldn’t really find them. And the implication being that Raven maybe was real in your film. So I guess I’ve waited a while to ask you this. What was the raven real in this matter? And with all these questions about truth, are there any things in documentary film that would be revoked for you? Like, for example, Marty Scorsese was recently accused of putting a fake character in his box. Is there any thing that wouldn’t be okay.

Werner Herzog 1:16:37
No Mercy think putting a fictitious character in a Bob Dylan documentary congratulations to Scorsese, who is normally cowardly. When it comes to expanding forms he follows he follows very much norm he’s a wonderful filmmaker but but not really extravagantly courageous into Creating new things, but I have not seen that Bob Dylan film but I welcome what you are saying. What you’re saying about harmony Corinthians David Blaine the magician. He seems I don’t like David Blaine at all. His his his repulsive in everything he’s doing. And in part, but what seems to be significant is he tries he started as an illusionist, doing card tricks and illusions. He seems to be moving away from the illusionist into trying to strain his body to its utmost limits to the brink of death, which is stupid. It’s outright stupid to immerse yourself in a water tank for for a whole week. It can’t get any more stupid than that. And he’s he’s just making a living out of something that is Definitely obscene,

Eric Weinstein 1:18:02
sir. Do you not have a cactus needle stuck in your kneecap? No, still?

Werner Herzog 1:18:06
No, it stayed for a few years. In my, in my knee senior, a jumped cast of midgets, I made a film even dwarf started small in one of them was run over by and by a car that was driverless going in circuits when caught fire inside and at the end I said, you throw yourself

Eric Weinstein 1:18:28
on a midget to put out the fire.

Werner Herzog 1:18:31
You better do that because everybody else was just looking at like it a Christmas tree burning. And the first thing you do throw yourself on Hibbing extinguish the guy. I didn’t smother him. I didn’t squish your word saying that. Yes, but, but I said if all of you come out unscathed at the end of the movie, I’m gonna from this ramp I’m gonna jump into this field of cacti. And you all have here at that time. eight millimeter cameras and your photo cameras and you can take your picture in I take off and I leaped in Yes, right. Some some of them got stuck in my niece in years and and they don’t get out easily

Eric Weinstein 1:19:14
would be an honor, sir to take you to lunch with David Blaine to work this thing out.

Werner Herzog 1:19:19
Yes. Now now to the next parking lot. Not Not for dinner. I don’t. I wouldn’t like to have a dinner with him. I do not want to ruin my appetite. But I would gladly take him to the men’s room or to to fight it out to take him to the parking lot. Ask her as

Eric Weinstein 1:19:39
we settle this however you

Werner Herzog 1:19:41
asked he asked the valets to step into obscurity and, and just let us sort it out. Yeah, among men.

Eric Weinstein 1:19:50
Okay, Verner. I gotta tell you.

Your life has been an inspiration to me since I was 16. And it doesn’t even feel like you can meto Verner Hertzog in real life. This is a very special day in my life. I want to thank you for coming bringing your stories, your wisdom, your views on art and your admonitions, which no one is following I think that probably their seminar audience are going to make a special note that this is the this is the advice that’s hard to get.

Werner Herzog 1:20:18
But it’s your life still. You don’t need to listen to me you you will find. You will find your own guidance and your own vision. Best of luck. Best of luck to all of you. So,

Eric Weinstein 1:20:30
all right, it could you chant for Verner, Hertzog