Unravelling human nature

Varied Experiences

The first two days of the programme, titled ‘Strange Places – Strange People’,  introduced the audience to a wide variety of fascinating characters and places. The programme was curated and introduced by M K Raghavendra, a film critic.

The first day saw the screening of two movies. In La Soufriere, Herzog visits an island in the Caribbean, on which a volcano is about to explode, to get eerie images of a world on the brink of annihilation. The second one, ‘God’s Angry Soldier’, is a fascinating film about a Los Angeles preacher who coaxes money out of his congregation through righteous anger.

The second day was an equally exciting one and included three documentaries. It began with the thought-provoking ‘Echoes from Sombre Empire’. The documentary was about Jean-Bedel Bokassa, a former captain in the French Army who crowned himself as the emperor of the ‘Central African Empire’ until he was deposed and his country renamed as the ‘Central African Republic’.

In this documentary, Herzog also shares his own experience with Bokassa, where Herzog is brutally beaten by him and spends a month in prison, as he is suspected of being a spy. The documentary includes testimonies from all the people who knew him and the different sides of him that they have encountered. Towards the end of the documentary, one is left wondering who the real Bokassa is? The answer to which probably even Bokassa didn’t know.  

The documentary highlights the unpredictability of human nature and emphasises on the different layers in an individual’s personality that lead to the choices one makes in life. It was followed by ‘The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner’, a film about a ski-flier and an unabashed piece of hero-worship. An equally exciting documentary was ‘The Dark Glow of the Mountains’, which was about mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s attempt to climb two peaks in the Karakoram Mountains.

On the occasion, M K Raghavendra said, “Herzog is not, intentionally, a political filmmaker.  His films are often about man against nature — men not merely courageous but sometimes comporting themselves like megalomaniacs. Underneath Herzog’s metaphysical exercises are also fables about domination — as in ‘Echoes from a Sombre Empire’.”

‘Land of Silence and Darkness’ and ‘Fata  Morgana’, will be shown on June 10 and 11 respectively at Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan.

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