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Filmmaker Herzog's 'Grizzly' Tale of Life and Death

The new documentary Grizzly Man by German filmmaker Werner Herzog tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, who lived for 13 years -- and died -- among the bears in Alaska. Treadwell and his girlfriend were found dead in October 2003, killed by the animals he had grown to love so much.

21:41

Other segments from the episode on July 28, 2005

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 28, 2005: Interview with Werner Herzog; Review of Fieldwork's new album "Simulated progress;" Commentary on Harry Potter phenomenon.

Transcript

DATE July 28, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Werner Herzog discusses his new documentary, "Grizzly
Man," and several of his other films
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

My guest, Werner Herzog, has been directing films since the 1960s and earned
acclaim as a leader of the new wave of German cinema following World War II.
Herzog has always been interested in physical and emotional extremes, and in
recent years, he's focused on documentaries. His latest, "Grizzly Man," tells
the story of Timothy Treadwell, an American who devoted himself to learning
about and living among Alaskan grizzly bears. Herzog's film draws heavily on
video diaries Treadwell kept describing his life with the bears.

(Soundbite of "Grizzly Man")

Mr. TIMOTHY TREADWELL: Most times, I'm a kind warrior out here. Most times,
I am gentle. I am like a flower. I am like--I'm like a fly on the wall,
observing, non-committal, non-invasive in any way. Occasionally, I am
challenged, and in that case, the kind warrior must, must, must become a
samurai, must become so formidable, so fearless of death, so strong, that he
will win. He will win. Even the bears will believe that you are more
powerful and, in a sense, you must be more powerful if you are to survive in
this land with the bear.

DAVIES: After 13 summers among the bears, in 2003, Treadwell and his
companion, Amie Huguenard, were attacked and killed by a grizzly. Among
Herzog's best-known feature films are "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," about a mad
Spanish conquistador, "Nosferatu," a retelling of the Dracula story, and
"Fitzcarraldo," about a man obsessed with building an opera house in the
Amazon jungle.

I spoke to Herzog last week about his film career and his new documentary. I
asked him what Treadwell was trying to accomplish by living among grizzly
bears.

Mr. WERNER HERZOG (Director): Well, I think only he would have the answer,
but unfortunately, he's dead, and we can only try to read from and understand
from his letters, diaries, photos and video material that he has left. But
apparently, he saw himself in a great mission to save the bears, who
apparently didn't need that much redemption or saving, because they were
relatively well-protected and kept by--in this case, kept by a national park,
a federal national park. But he was also a great educator. He taught
schoolchildren over the years, tens of thousands all in all, for free, never
solicited a fee, so he was on a real mission.

But I do believe that he probably didn't save the bears that much as the bears
saved him. He was a deeply troubled man, haunted by demons. He was an
alcoholic--I mean, in a severe stage of alcoholism. And he speaks about it
himself, and he had a near fatal overdose, apparently heroin, so in coming
across the wild nature out there in Alaska and seeing the grizzly bears, it
was like an epiphany for him, and he said to himself, `I must protect the
bears. This is the great mission in my life.' All of a sudden--and he says
so in the film--he has a life. He had no life before. It was in shambles.
It was a chaos. It was dangerous, and he was on the verge of getting killed
or killing himself. Now I think the bears redeemed him more than he redeemed
the bears.

DAVIES: You know, I was going to play a clip from the film. This is from one
of Timothy Treadwell's video diaries in which he...

Mr. HERZOG: Yes.

DAVIES: ...talks a bit about kind of what this mission in his life has
brought him. Let's listen to this. This, again, is from my guest Werner
Herzog's new documentary, "Grizzly Man."

(Soundbite of "Grizzly Man")

Mr. TREADWELL: If there--I have no idea if there's a God. But if there is a
God, God would be very, very pleased with me. If he could just watch me, he'd
know how much I love them, how much I adore them, how respectful I am to them,
how I am one of them and how the studies they give me, the photographs, the
video, and take that around, for no charge, to people around the world, it's
good work. I feel good about it. I feel good about myself doing it. And I
want to continue, and I hope I can. I really hope I can. But if not, be
warned, I will die for these animals. I will die for these animals. I will
die for these animals. Thank you so much for letting me do this. Thank you
so much for these animals, for giving me a life. I had no life. Now I have a
life.

DAVIES: And that was Timothy Treadwell from...

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah.

DAVIES: ...my guest Werner Herzog's new documentary, "Grizzly Man."

Mr. HERZOG: How tragic to hear this voice, because very shortly after that,
he was killed and devoured by a grizzly bear, together with his girlfriend.

DAVIES: You know...

Mr. HERZOG: It clearly makes me ache when I hear his voice like that.

DAVIES: It is interesting that he survives 13 summers of the bears, sort of
living in close proximity to grizzly bears.

Mr. HERZOG: Yes.

DAVIES: But the summer that he perishes comes on an occasion in which he
stays later than he normally would. What was he doing in the grizzly maze
so late in the season?

Mr. HERZOG: Normally, he would stay the end of the season. That means until
something like end of September out there, and then it would get cold and the
bears would move into their dens for hibernation. They sleep six months.
Half the year, they sleep, and they dream. So he was ready to return to
California, and at Kodiak Airport, there was an altercation with an airline
employee, very nasty apparently, and Timothy Treadwell writes in his diary,
and he writes--and it appears very often--`How much do I hate the people's
world?' So he made a distinction between the people's world and the animal's
world.

And spontaneously, he decides, leave all this behind and return to the bears
for at least another week or so, and he returns to this area, dangerous area,
which he calls the grizzly maze, and sets up his camp with his girlfriend,
Amie Huguenard, and literally, the day when they're ready to be picked up by a
pilot, by one of the bush pilots, they apparently got killed, and it was a
chain of coincidences.

DAVIES: Does it seem likely that he might have been killed not by the bears
who he had come to know well over 13 seasons, but by other bears who were out
late, probably hungrier?

Mr. HERZOG: Yes. And wild and not as much accustomed to the presence of a
human being. When he returns, he writes in his diary most of his bear friends
were gone into hibernation, and wilder, scarier, more aggressive bears,
hungrier bears, big bears from the back country had moved in and taken over
the stream where there was a last little bit of the salmon run.

DAVIES: He shot more than a hundred hours of video. I think he was used to
running the video camera at all kinds of encounters with the bears, and as it
happens, a video camera was running in this last tragic attack when both
Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were killed by the bear. The
video camera was running, but with the lens cap on, so, in effect, that it was
an audio record of the attack itself. Now we don't hear that audio in your
film, but you do listen to it. Tell us, was it your decision or someone
else's not to air that audio? How did you decide to use that in the film?

Mr. HERZOG: It was very easy to decide this, because I listened to it in
presence of the guardian or the custodian of Treadwell's materials, Jewel
Palovak, who had founded Grizzly People, a non-profit organization, together
with Treadwell, and she's holding all the rights to his books and photos and
videos. And so she allowed me to listen to it, and it was instantly clear for
me, under no circumstances whatever, that is going to be published. Number
one, it was clear to me we are not doing a snuff movie. Number two, it
occurred to me instantly, you have to respect the privacy of and the dignity
of an individual death. You don't drag it into the open.

So not permissible and of course, Jewel Palovak wouldn't have agreed either,
even though she never listened to the tape, and she has not done so until this
very day. And I gave her in this moment an advice which was kind of not very
wise, I would say rather stupid, what I told her: `Destroy the tape. It's
sitting in your room like the elephant.' She pondered over this for a while
and then did a much smarter thing. She kept the tape intact but separated
herself from it and she put it in a safe deposit in a bank vault, so now it's
locked away and it's not sitting in her shelf in her living room anymore, and
I think it was a wise decision.

DAVIES: You described the conversation you had with Jewel Palovak about this
audio that she possessed of Timothy Treadwell's death at the hands of a bear,
and the interesting thing is that the advice that you gave her to destroy
it...

Mr. HERZOG: Yes.

DAVIES: ...we actually see you rendering that advice in your documentary and
an occasion in which you are sitting face to face with her. You have
headphones on, and you were actually listening to this audio...

Mr. HERZOG: Yes.

DAVIES: ...of her very, very dear friend being attacked and eaten by a
grizzly bear. So there is an odd presentation of this horrific moment. I
mean, we see her face as she reacts to your face.

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah, all the anguish. Yeah, and that's--I think it's one of the
most accomplished moments in film that I ever made in my life. You see me
only halfway from behind and I'm not important but you see her face in anguish
trying to read my face, what I'm hearing. So it's a very, very strange and
deep moment and I love this moment and I love how it ends. It was all
spontaneous. I knew it will not be published and she's in deep, deep, deep
anguish and I think she starts crying and I reach over to her. It's very
silent, very laconic and one of the finest moments I ever shot in my life.

DAVIES: My guest is Werner Herzog. He's a legendary filmmaker. His new
documentary is called "Grizzly Man." We'll talk more after a break. This is
FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're speaking with Werner Herzog. His new documentary is called
"Grizzly Man."

You tell us at the end of this film that Treadwell's story isn't so much about
nature, which he seems to think it is, but a look at--into ourselves and our
nature and this gives his life meaning. What does his story tell us about
ourselves?

Mr. HERZOG: Well, it certainly is not a film about wild nature. I ignored
much of that footage and he has dozens and dozens of hours of fluffy bear cubs
playing with mom bear. And he has dozens and dozens of hours of bears fishing
for salmon and bears roaming the landscape and so.

But the real interesting side of what he filmed--because he pointed his own
camera at himself very, very often--he wanted to be a movie star. He was
actually a failed movie star as well, tried to get into some TV soap operas
and shows like "Cheers." And he wanted to be a star and points the camera at
himself and now all of the sudden we gain insight into the human nature, into
the human heart, their souls, into our human condition more than anything I've
seen in a long, long, long time. And that's the great value of his footage
and it's all this turmoil. It's him being haunted by demons, him in
exhilarations, in joy, in tribulation, rejected, in self-deceit, in moments of
paranoia, in moments of victory, in moments of defeat, everything that's human
life, human existence, human condition and it's wonderful that we have that.
And that makes him so big that is way, way, way beyond a wildlife
cinematographer.

DAVIES: In recent years you've done a lot of--more documentaries and I was
curious about someone who has spent so much time in feature films creating an
image from scratch, if it's a different skill to tell a story where you are
capturing and editing images in reality. You don't like cinema verite where
you just present a chronicle.

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah, I think cinema verite somehow doesn't make a clear enough
distinction between fact and truth--as if facts constituted truth--but there's
quite, quite a distinction that I make. And I'm after something that you find
in great poetry. When you read a great poem you would instantly notice that
there's a deep truth in it. You don't have to analyze the poem in academic
ways and all this. You know it instantly and it passes all through you and
becomes part of your inner existence. And it's the same thing in cinema. In
great moments of cinema you are hit and struck by some sort of enlightenment,
by something that illuminates you and it's a deep form of truth. And I call
it an ecstatic truth, the ecstasy of truth, and that's what I'm after. And
I'm after that in documentaries. In feature films and in documentaries--you
can't even call my documentaries documentaries because I fabricate, I invent,
I write dialogues for it. So the borderline between documentary and feature
films is quite blurred and doesn't exist like this for me.

DAVIES: Well, when you say you fabricate, I mean, do you mislead your
audience? I mean, would they think things are true or not?

Mr. HERZOG: No.

DAVIES: No.

Mr. HERZOG: No, but they would normally know what I'm going after and it's
fine, but sometimes I do rehearse a statement. Let's say, "Little Deiter
Needs to Fly." Deiter Dengler, who is the leading character in the film, was
shot down over Laos in the early phase of the Vietnam War and he is telling
stories--what happened to him and he goes into details that are totally
uninteresting and I stop everything and I start rehearsing the story with him
and getting the details that are fascinating for the audience. And so I
maneuver and I rehearse and I shoot six times over like in a feature film, not
that anything untrue is coming across.

DAVIES: You want to capture that version of reality that betrays the inner
truth of it. Yeah, yeah.

Mr. HERZOG: And sometimes, sometimes I create an inner truth. I invent, but
I invent in order to gain a deeper insight.

DAVIES: One of the things I wanted to ask you about was that in your
documentaries it is your vision and we hear your voice and we hear your ideas,
but--and I'd like to play just a bit of your voice-over from your recent
documentary "Grizzly Man." This is my guest, Werner Herzog, and I will just
tell our audience that although it's not critical to my point, in this
particular piece of the voice-over we are seeing a close-up of a large grizzly
bear who, at times, looks directly into the camera.

(Soundbite of "Grizzly Man")

Mr. HERZOG: And what haunts me is that in all the faces of all the bears that
Treadwell ever filmed I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I
see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such
thing as a secret world of the bears and this blank stare speaks only of the
half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell this bear was a
friend, a savior.

DAVIES: That's my guest Werner Herzog from a voice-over in his new
documentary, "Grizzly Man," about Timothy Treadwell, who studied bears and was
ultimately killed by one.

You know, of the five or six moments in the film that really stuck with me
that was one of them. What do you think your voice brings to your
documentary films?

Mr. WERNER: I think there is for the audience a person recognizable behind
the movie. It's not just an anonymous film that you normally would see on TV
and you hear a well-polished voice in the studio and done by an actor. Here
you can identify the human being behind the film and you even see me once for
something like 30 seconds on screen but from behind. So I thought this was
right and good and don't hide in anonymity behind your movie.

DAVIES: Well, it's interesting because I think your voice does bring--it just
is weighted with authority and insight. And it's interesting to me that
we--we hear your voice so much in your documentaries. You don't cast yourself
in your feature films, do you?

Mr. HERZOG: Not really, no, but in some of my feature films I appear very...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. HERZOG: ...fleetingly. For example, in my very first feature film,
"Signs of Life," there was a German soldier and we had an extra in Greece on
the Greek island and the extra didn't show up. And the only one in the crew
who fit into the costume was me. So I slipped into a soldier's outfit and I'm
visible there for 20 seconds or so. I do that, but I have acted in movies
like Harmony Korine's "Julien Donkey Boy"...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. HERZOG: ...and really as an actor in Zak Penn's "Incident at Loch Ness"
and in about a dozen other films.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. HERZOG: But that is pure acting work.

DAVIES: Do you think that it's a mistake for you to act and direct or is it
that you are not...

Mr. HERZOG: No, in my own movie...

DAVIES: ...your face is not the...

Mr. HERZOG: In my own movie I try to avoid that, but if somebody else makes
a film--and like Harmony Korine was a very pleasant sort of work because I had
to play a dysfunctional, hostile, vile father of a completely chaotic family
whom I--and I'm harassing everyone. And that came easy to me and I'm good as
vile as it gets and as horrifying as it gets. And I'm doing all right with
those things, but in my own movies I wouldn't like to act.

DAVIES: You do rage well, huh?

Mr. HERZOG: Yes, and the strange thing is that people believe in normal life
I'm full of rage and full of wild stuff. I'm the only one who is always
quiet, completely like a surgeon while doing surgery. Never a loud word,
professional, focused and I'm also the only clinically sane person on the set.
They translate qualities of Klaus Kinski, the raving madman in hysteric, into
my person, which I am not. But it's OK. I can live with it easily. Take my
word. I'm the only clinically sane far and wide.

DAVIES: Filmmaker Werner Herzog. His new documentary is called "Grizzly
Man." He'll be back in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies and
this is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Coming up, despite the hype, John Powers says kids are lucky to have
the "Harry Potter" series. He'll tell us why. Also a review of the new album
"Simulated Progress" from the jazz trio Fieldwork. And we continue our
conversation with filmmaker Werner Herzog. He has a new documentary called
"Grizzly Man."

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is Dave Davies. This is FRESH AIR.

We're speaking with filmmaker Werner Herzog. His new documentary, "Grizzly
Man," tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, a self-taught American naturalist
who lived among Alaskan grizzly bears and was eventually killed by one.
Herzog has directed more than 50 films and was a leader of German cinema in
the postwar period. Several of his feature films starred the temperamental
actor Klaus Kinski. Two were set deep in the Amazon jungle, "Aguirre, the
Wrath of God," about a crazed Spanish conquistador, and "Fitzcarraldo," in
which a man obsessed with bringing opera to the jungle hires hundreds of
Indians to haul a massive steamship over a mountain to reach his rubber
plantation. Herzog's epic struggle to make "Fitzcarraldo" is chronicled in a
documentary by Les Blank called "Burden of Dreams." It's now available on
DVD.

Anyone who has seen the documentary, the Les Blank documentary "Burden of
Dreams"...

Mr. HERZOG: Right.

DAVIES: ...which is about--it's a remarkable film about your making of your
film, "Fitzcarraldo," which, for audiences...

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah.

DAVIES: ...who haven't seen it, tells a three-year epic and all the
difficulties you overcame filming this incredible story deep, deep in the
Amazonian jungle. And your star then was Klaus Kinski, who, as you note, was
legendary for his tantrums and rages. And there's a famous story, which I
think you told when you spoke to Terry Gross years ago, of when Klaus
threatened to leave the set and you got him to stay by promising that if he
left, you would follow him down the river and shoot him.

Mr. HERZOG: I would just open fire. But I was unarmed, of course. But he
knew it was not a joke. He screamed for help. He screamed for the police.

DAVIES: I wanted to ask you, since Klaus Kinski--on this set, when you were
making "Fitzcarraldo," there were many, many times when people had to wait
for days at times, weeks...

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah.

DAVIES: ...and he would go into these rages. And you also had--in addition
to the European cast there, you had scores, maybe hundreds of indigenous
people, Indians, who were...

Mr. HERZOG: Sure. Yeah.

DAVIES: ...observing this raving madman actor. How did they react to Kinski?

Mr. HERZOG: Well, normally they would huddle and whisper, and then they would
fall silent. They would form a circle with their backs out there and they
would huddle, and they were kind of afraid. The funny thing is that the chief
of all these tribal people came to me after one of those mad rages, raving
and ranting of Kinski and screaming for hours; he came to me and he said, `You
have probably noticed that we were kind of afraid.' And he says, `But don't
you believe that we're afraid of this raging madman who is screaming about.'
They were afraid of me because I was so quiet. They were really afraid of me.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. HERZOG: You see in the same movie, I had to...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. HERZOG: ...hoist a huge steamboat in one single piece over a mountain
with 1,100 savage--quote, unquote, "savage"--Indians and with no technology,
literally no modern technology. And that boat weighed a couple of hundred
tons, and I don't know if you can imagine what that means. So--and we had two
plane crashes and we had all sorts of things. And Kinski's screaming and
yelling and throwing tantrums every two hours. So you've got to live with it
and you've got to somehow fortify yourself with enough philosophy.

DAVIES: Did the Indians ever offer you any help with Kinski?

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah, well, they wanted to kill him and they asked me, `Shall we
kill him for you?' And I said, `No, I'm still shooting. I still need him.'
It is not a joke.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. HERZOG: They would have done it in 10 seconds flat.

DAVIES: Wow. Well, we should note for the audience that, in fact, you and
Kinski remained friends after that, made films after that. And...

Mr. HERZOG: Of course. Yes.

DAVIES: And of course, he died many years ago; he's no longer with us.

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah.

DAVIES: But, yeah, he was unique. In the documentary "Burden of Dreams,"
which is about your making of "Fitzcarraldo," we see that Mick Jagger was
originally in that cast and then was replaced because there were delays and he
had a concert schedule he had to get to. And you wrote him out of the part.
You said--there certainly wasn't anybody else who could play the role that you
envisioned for him. What was so unique about Mick Jagger that he simply
couldn't be replaced?

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah. All of you haven't seen the footage because I threw it
away at the end, and the very few moments that have survived in Les Blank's
film "Burden of Dreams." But Jagger is a man who has not really properly
discovered--been discovered yet as a great actor, and he was formidable. He
was really wonderful and I loved him for his abilities. And when he had a
stop date, of course, for going on to this world tour with the Rolling Stones,
when I started shooting all over again, this time with Klaus Kinski, I knew I
wouldn't have time enough to finish all the sequences that had him involved.
So I said to him, `Mick, I have to leave you in peace. Go back home. But I'm
going to write out this part. Nobody will replace you.' And this is my
opinion until this very day, and I have no regrets that I didn't replace him
by anyone.

DAVIES: It seems often you get an idea that an actor fits, he embodies a
role.

Mr. HERZOG: Yeah.

DAVIES: And you go after that actor. You don't believe in Method acting at
all, this endless character study.

Mr. HERZOG: I have no idea what they're doing, but I think it's much baloney
there. And I do have a strong sense for casting; I do not make mistakes, or I
do not make major mistakes. Of course, everyone makes mistakes. But if I
didn't have that in me, I wouldn't be a director; I wouldn't have gotten
beyond my second movie.

DAVIES: You know, one of my favorite of your movies--in fact, one of my
favorite of anybody's movies, is "Stroszek." And it's this tale of this man
who gets out of prison, a man, I guess one might say, of diminished mental
capacity. He hooks up with an abused prostitute and an eccentric old man, and
they make their way to, of all places, Wisconsin to start a new life. And
it's just a remarkable story, and one of the interesting things about this is
that the lead in this who plays this disheveled man is a gentleman by the name
of Bruno S., who was not an actor...

Mr. HERZOG: Right.

DAVIES: ...at all. Tell us about what brought--what you saw in him and what
brought him into your movies.

Mr. HERZOG: I saw him by coincidence in a documentary made by a young Berlin
filmmaker, a film student, about marginal people who are doing street singing,
and he was one of them. And I instantly knew that man had to be the leading
character, in "Kaspar Hauser." Actually, in fact, he was a forklift driver in
a steel factory, but he had spent 23 years locked away between his third year
of age and he was 26. What happened was he was the son of a prostitute who
didn't want this child, and she beat up that baby so severely all over
the--for no reasons whatsoever, and when he was three years old and he was
speaking already, she beat him so savagely that he lost speech, and that was a
pretext for her to get rid of him, and she put him into an asylum for retarded
and insane children.

And he spent something like six years, until he was nine, started to escape,
was recaptured, ended up in correctional center, in some sort of mild forms of
prison, and then he had a long career of minor offenses, vagabondry or
breaking open a car window when it was bitterly cold and he was homeless, and
he would sleep in the car and police would drag him out, and he got four
months in jail for that. For 23 years he was locked away and systematically
somehow destroyed by society.

And he had an illuminating power inside of him which you cannot describe
unless you see the movie. And he never wanted to have his name released. He
wanted--I said to him, `You are the anonymous--the unknown soldier of cinema,
and I want to construct the monument for the unknown soldier for you.'

DAVIES: What...

Mr. HERZOG: And--yeah.

DAVIES: What was he like to work with on a movie set? I mean, clearly not
someone who was a trained actor. And it brought a lot of difficulties.

Mr. HERZOG: Complicated, because he had moments of utmost despair and would
talk to me in the middle of a shot, just look at me and start talking to me
for two and a half hours. Of course the camera would stop, and I insisted
that the entire crew would freeze in their positions and listen attentively
what he was saying to me. He needed that, and I took the time and I was OK to
guide him in his work in these two movies I made. It's unprecedented in depth
and beauty.

DAVIES: And what became of him after those two movies?

Mr. HERZOG: He never wanted to become a movie star, but of course, he became
better-known. And the barber gives him a free haircut, and the pastry baker
drags him in and gives him a cake whenever he walks by, and they are proud of
him. It improved the climate around him. And he actually worked as a street
singer on weekends, during the week as a forklift driver. And he retired. He
retired a couple of years ago, and he lives on pension now in Berlin.

DAVIES: My guest is filmmaker Werner Herzog. His new documentary is called
"Grizzly Man." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: My guest is Werner Herzog. He's made more than 50 films. His latest
documentary is "Grizzly Man."

Well, Werner Herzog, you're making documentaries still, and many of them take
you to remote places and involve people who are doing things at the limits of
exertion, taking mortal risks. In your recent documentary "Wheel of Time,"
which chronicles hundreds of thousands of Buddhists who trek to observe the
initiation of Buddhist monks, if I've read this right, you actually journeyed
into Tibetan mountains and did a lot of filming where you were the entire
crew. You did all of the shooting, you did all of the sound while coping with
altitude sickness at 19,000 feet above sea level. And I'm just wondering,
didn't anybody ever tell you that a famous director should have a big crew and
a trailer where you get cappuccino and brioche in the morning?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERZOG: Not so around Mt. Kailash.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. HERZOG: When you circumambulate this mountain in this particular year
with about a hundred thousand pilgrims, you climb up to sometimes 19,000 feet.
And I actually was not alt--I didn't suffer from altitude sickness; my wife
did, who is a very athletic person and younger than me. Anyway, and what was
interesting is that I shot the footage myself as a cinematographer because we
didn't have any shooting permit in China or Tibet, rather, and--but all the
other film that was shot in Bodh Gaya, the place where the authentic Buddha
had his enlightenment under a tree, that was shot together with half a million
pilgrims by a real crew and a cinematographer.

DAVIES: You do...

Mr. HERZOG: But I'm not into dangerous or remote locations. For example,
Ajournalie(ph) is just another forest. So what?

DAVIES: All right.

Mr. HERZOG: There's nothing special about it.

DAVIES: You do push yourself hard, though. You know, in the documentary...

Mr. HERZOG: I'm not...

DAVIES: Go ahead.

Mr. HERZOG: I'm not interested in exploration and trying to push myself and
finding my boundaries. That's all baloney. I'm not into that.

DAVIES: You're into making a good film and sort of telling a story.

Mr. HERZOG: I'm not in experiencing myself. I'm a storyteller, sure, and I'm
a filmmaker and I'm a poet to some degree, and that's as simple as that. And
if there are difficulties en route, I just take it as they come, and I will
tackle it in a soldierly manner.

DAVIES: Right. Right.

Mr. HERZOG: I try to be a good soldier of cinema. That's it.

DAVIES: Well, I mean, you certainly have taken on some difficult projects.
And in "Burden of Dreams," the documentary about the three-year saga to make
"Fitzcarraldo" in the Amazonian jungle, there's a point where you say you
should probably give this project up, but if you did, you would be a man
without dreams and you don't want to live like that.

Mr. HERZOG: Sure.

DAVIES: You were, I believe, 37 when you said that. I guess
you're--What?--62 now?

Mr. HERZOG: Yes.

DAVIES: Are you still someone who has to dream to live?

Mr. HERZOG: I do not know. I wouldn't be myself. And the strange thing is I
do not dream at night. I have no dreams, and I wake up in the morning and I
feel this void; I have not dreamt again. So maybe that's one of the reasons
why I do movies.

DAVIES: Well, Werner Herzog, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Mr. HERZOG: Thank you for having me.

DAVIES: Filmmaker Werner Herzog. His new documentary is called "Grizzly
Man."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New album "Simulated Progress" from jazz trio Fieldwork
DAVE DAVIES, host:

Pianist Vijay Iyer is a rising jazz star, groomed by gigs with Steve Coleman,
Roscoe Mitchell and Wadada Leo Smith. But Iyer may be better known for his
own projects. One of those is a cooperative trio called Fieldwork whose
members believe in rehearsing a lot to foster a free flow of ideas and create
a real band aesthetic. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says all that practice
pays off.

(Soundbite of music)

KEVIN WHITEHEAD reporting:

Fieldwork is a jazz power trio for the new century, one that packs the wallop
of a rock band, at least sometimes, a little like their contemporaries The Bad
Plus or Jason Moran's Bandwagon. Fieldwork may get stuck on repeated licks
like a glam band hammering home a tune's hook. But one saving grace is they
don't dumb down the solos.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Vijay Iyer on piano. He could come up for air once in a while,
but you can hear why jazz folk like him more and more. A percussive pianist
who doesn't punish the instrument, he'll spin long, intricate lines without
tripping over his own fingers and has a sure feel for knocking out complex
rhythms. Those stem at least partly from his study of the Carnatic music of
south India, where his parents are from. And those shifting beats also recall
the Indian-influenced jazz-rock fusion of the 1970s.

Iyer was raised in Rochester, New York, where he grew up all-American
multicultural, eating Indian snacks, digging "Star Wars" and practicing
Rachmaninoff on violin. The young fiddler switched to piano after discovering
how much fun it was to make its low notes sing out, a childhood enthusiasm
that stayed with him.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: I like how piano and drums lock into contrasting beats there.
Vijay Iyer's trip mates, as heard on Fieldwork's CD "Simulated Progress" from
the Pi label, are saxophonist Steve Lehman, who's new to the band, and drummer
Elliot Humberto Kavee, who's since moved on. Those personnel changes reflect
how hard it is to get busy New Yorkers to clear lots of rehearsal time.
Still, Fieldwork achieves a hard-edged unity of purpose, with everyone pulling
together, like I say, more like a rock than a jazz band. The trio has no bass
player, and everyone works hard to compensate.

On Lehman's tune "Trips," drums evoke a scratchy rhythm guitar, the saxophone
plays the sort of repeating line a bassist might play, and the whole band
traces a hiccuping rhythm pattern.

(Soundbite of "Trips")

WHITEHEAD: Fieldwork thrives on off-center grooves like that. Elliot Kavee
is typical of younger jazz drummers who've absorbed hip-hop beats into the
vocabulary without sounding mechanical. Saxophonist Steve Lehman has a
slippery rhythm sense of his own, gliding between the beats or leaping over
them.

It's a good band, but I have one suggestion for those rehearsal sessions:
Work on your endings. Pieces that start strong may peter out by the end. But
when a band can make tricky technical stuff sound like musical populism, that
criticism sounds like nitpicking.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead teaches English and American studies at the
University of Kansas and is a jazz columnist for EMusic.com.

Coming up, John Powers on the "Harry Potter" phenomenon. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Commentary: Nostalgia and envy inspired by the "Harry Potter"
phenomenon
DAVE DAVIES, host:

With so many eager fans anxiously awaiting the arrival of the newest "Harry
Potter" novel, there was no doubt it would be a best seller. In fact, within
the first 24 hours, it became the fastest-selling book in history. Our critic
at large, John Powers, is a fan, and even though he didn't join young readers
waiting at midnight bookstore lines--he was tucked in bed--he understands
their passion.

JOHN POWERS:

When the first "Harry Potter" novel came out nine years ago, the whole thing
seemed refreshingly innocent. Here was an unheralded little book that was
discovered by kids, who passed it from hand to hand like a talisman. All that
seems a long, long time ago. By the time "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince" was released this July 16th, the series had become a marketing event,
with kids worldwide lining up at midnight to get their copy. These days the
act of buying a "Harry Potter" book is part of the Potter experience.

Although it's easy to be cynical about such a triumph of commerce, I had a
very different reaction when my 10-year-old friend Isabelle told me about her
midnight trip to the local bookstore. I was filled with nostalgia. You see,
when I was a boy, I lived in an Iowa town so small it didn't have a grocery
store. Every Thursday evening we'd drive into Des Moines to go shopping, and
on some of those trips, we'd stop at a Rexall drugstore out near the airport.
It was there that they sold "Hardy Boys" mysteries. And as we neared the
city, I would wait, heart thumping, to see if my dad would buy me a book with
a suspenseful title like "What Happened at Midnight" or "While the Clock
Ticked." If he did, I'd devour the new book that same night, using a
flashlight under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping.

The Hardy Boys turned me into an avid lifelong reader, for which I'll always
be grateful. But the day I picked up the first "Harry Potter" novel, I
realized how much luckier children are today. Although we keep hearing
complaints that we're in an era of cultural decline, that everything is dumber
and crasser than it used to be, this series is actually incomparably richer
and more intelligent than the kids' books I used to read.

In fact, the series is one gigantic bildungsroman, to use the lit-crit jargon,
the story of Harry's moral, psychological and intellectual growth. Where the
first books were filled with delights--we see Harry discover his amazing
powers and explore the enchanted world of Hogwarts--the later books take him
ever deeper into the murky depths of experience. Harry's friends die. The
father he idolizes turns out to have been an arrogant bully. Hogwarts, like
youth itself, is starting to fade. And even Harry is no longer an unalloyed
nice guy. He learns that there's no small cost to that lightning-flash
birthmark on his forehead.

All this is a far cry from the Hardy Boys. Through 40 mysteries, nothing ever
changed in Frank and Joe's world, least of all Frank and Joe. In contrast,
J.K. Rowling's work not only touches on all sorts of modern preoccupations--we
feel the shadow of terrorism--but it offers a level of moral complexity and
transformation missing from most adult best sellers. Tom Clancy or Janet
Evanovich would be vastly better writers if they could give their heroes'
adventures half the psychological depth of Harry's.

Now there is, of course, something extremely seductive about stories set in a
static universe. It's reassuring that the Hardy Boys, 007 and Ray Romano are
always the same. We like it that smug William Petersen invariably solves the
crime on "C.S.I." and that Larry David is perpetually aggrieved. Yet such
static storytelling seems increasingly stale. We're living in a time when
audiences are turned on by stories that show people and situations changing,
often irrevocably. That's one reason why the HBO dramas have become such
powerful cultural touchstones, the contemporary version of Dickens' serialized
novels. From episode to episode, shows like "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under,"
"The Wire" and "Deadwood" give you a world in the process of transformation.
Fortunes rise and fall. Love blossoms and fades. Popular characters die or
get whacked.

In his book "Everything Bad Is Good for You," Steven Johnson argues that such
transformational shows like "The Sopranos" actually make us smarter, at least
compared to static ones like "Law & Order," let alone "McMillan and Wife." I
don't know about that, but I do know that there's no more thrilling experience
in art that getting sucked into a story about how a hero grows into his or her
destiny, with all the delights, disappointments and surprises that such growth
brings. And this experience is never more thrilling than the first time it
happens when you're a kid just discovering the full power of stories, which is
why when my young friend Isabelle began gushing about the new "Harry Potter,"
I didn't only feel nostalgia. I felt envy.

DAVIES: John Powers is film critic for Vogue. His book about American
culture, "Sore Winners," will be available in paperback next week.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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