30/05/2015

Highlighted passages in Herzog's Conquest of the Useless


A fairly young, intelligent-looking man with long hair asked me whether filming or being filmed could do harm, whether it could destroy a person. In my heart the answer was yes, but I said no.



In the evening I finished reading a book, and because I felt so alone, I buried it in the forest with a borrowed spade.



Laplace [the set engineer] is talking about levelling the slope to a mere 45 percent grade; but that would look like the narrow strip of land that forms an isthmus. I told him I would not allow that, because we would lose the central metaphor of the film. ‘Metaphor for what?’ he asked. I said I did not know, just that it was a grand metaphor. Maybe, I said, it was an image slumbering in all of us, and I happened to be the one to introduce him to a brother he had never met… he said he could not go working under these conditions, and wanted to leave.



The jungle is obscene. Everything about it is sinful, for which reason the sin does not stand out as sin. The voices in the jungle are silent; nothing is stirring, and a languid, immobile anger hovers over everything.



I recall experiencing a similar shiver of awe as a child in Sachrang, when I found a fried piece of bright blue plastic that had floated down the brook and got caught on an over hanging branch. At the time, I had never seen anything like it, and I kept it hidden for weeks, licked it, found it slightly stretchy, full of miraculous properties. Not until weeks later, when I had my fill of owning it, did I show it to anyone. Till and I discovered when you held a burning match to it, it melted; it gave black smoke and a nasty smell, but it was something we had never seen before, an emissary from a distant world high in the mountains, along the upper reaches of the brook, where it vanished into gorges and there were no people. So where did it come from? Had it blown into the mountains by the wind? Idid not know, but I gave the plastic a name-what I do not recall. I do know it had a nice sound, and was very secret, and since then I have often racked my brains, trying to remember that name, that word. I would give a lot to know it, but I do not, and I also do not have that delicate piece of weather-beaten plastic anymore. Having neither the secret word nor the plastic makes me poorer today than I was as a child.



At the market I ate a piece of a grilled monkey—it looked like a naked child.



The enormous remaining boa constrictor will die in its cage, I think; it leans its ugly head against the wire and has a heartrending air such as you see only in the dying. I thought it must be thirsty and carefully poured water on its mouth and head, but it merely stared at me from the depths of a loneliness that had little connection left with earthly things. So we decided to release the boa. Walter and I shook it out of the cage, because it did not want to budge. The women watched from a safe distance, not looking happy. The snake crawled right back into its enclosure, yet when I checked later, it was gone, and there was a clear trail in the sand leading toward the jungle. At night the place where the snake had disappeared was thronged with twinkling fireflies, and overhead a clear, starry night sky.



I had a long discussion with Beatus about a three-dimensional game of chess I am trying to devise - the complexities involved are quite a strain.



Sweat, storm clouds overhead, sleeping dogs. There is a smell of stale urine. In my soup, ants and bugs were swimming among the globules of fat. Lord Almighty, send us an earthquake.



We shot some footage with Mick [Jagger] and the little Indian boy who is called McNamara in the film, and both of them did such a good job that the team broke into applause. During the scene Mick was bitten on the shoulder by one of the monkeys and laughed so uproariously about it afterward that it sounded like a donkey braying. Whenever we take a break he distracts me with clever little lectures on English dialects and the development of the language since the late Middle Ages.



A vision had seized hold of me, like the demented fury of a hound that has sunk its teeth into the leg of a deer carcass and is shaking and tugging at the downed game so frantically that the hunter gives up trying to calm him. It was the vision of a large steamship scaling a hill under its own steam, working its way up a steep slope in the jungle, while above this natural landscape, which shatters the weak and the strong with equal ferocity, soars the voice of Caruso, silencing all the pain and all the voices of the primeval forest and drowning out all birdsong. To be more precise: bird cries, for in this setting, left unfinished and abandoned by God in wrath, the birds do not sing; they shriek in pain, and confused trees tangle with one another like battling Titans, from horizon to horizon, in a steaming creation still being formed. Fog-panting and exhausted they stand in this unreal misery - and I, like a stanza in a poem written in an unknown foreign tongue, am shaken to the core.



This morning I woke up to terror such as I have never experienced before: I was entirely stripped of feeling. Everything was gone; it was as if I had lost something that had been entrusted to me the previous evening, something I was supposed to take special care of overnight. I was in the position of someone who has been assigned to guard an entire sleeping army, but suddenly finds himself mysteriously blinded, deaf, and effaced. Everything was gone. I was completely empty, without pain, without longing, without love, without warmth and friendship, without anger, without hate. Nothing, nothing was there anymore, and I was left like a suit of armor with no knight inside. It took a long time before I even felt alarmed.



I had a violent, absurd quarrel with Kinski about his mineral water, with which he wants to wash himself now. Otherwise peace and quiet. Suddenly Kinski started yelling again, but it had no connection to anything here. He was beside himself, calling Sergio Leone and Corbucci rotten vermin, no-good so-and-sos and cyclopean ass-holes. It took a long time for him to wear himself out. Then his yelling flared up again briefly, as he called Fellini a bungling idiot, a fat bastard. Then in late morning I finally got some sleep.



For the first time in my life I rode a motorcycle through a movie theater.





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