Monday, April 18, 2011

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Stiener

Die Große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner (The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner), 1974
Dir: Werner Herzog

Like most of Herzog's documentaries, this works because he is fascinated by the paradox of humans who endeavor to exist in a place where they really shouldn't (think of later films like Grizzly Man (2005) or Encounters at the End of the World (2007). With Walter Steiner, a 23 year-old champion ski flyer (which is slightly different than ski jumping, I guess), Herzog has found someone unable to stop "flying" despite constantly knowing the dangers he places on himself by doing it. Walter is one of the best, and the administrators keep pushing him to try to break records (thus increasing intrest and revenue) by increasing the height of the ramps. Sometimes he'll pull of a great jump, but when he's interviewed at the bottom he'll bash the higher-ups for trying to hurt people. Sometimes though he actaully will crash and burn. But what can he do? He loves to fly. He needs the ecstasy. Those around Walter tell him that he broods too much, but this only seems to sink him further into his psychological state. The TV station providng funding for the film's insistance that Herzog himself be in the film sort of makes it feel like "Werner Herzog's Wide World of Sports" at times, but I think a lot of what Herzog tries to do (at least in his non-fiction) can be traced back to this.

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