“The oil is trying to disguise itself”
Impressionistic doc shot in aftermath of Kuwait war.
Divided into sections:
- A Capital City (pre-war helicopter shot)
- The War (bombing footage)
- After the Battle (post-war helicopter shot, big horns on soundtrack)
- Torture Chambers (implements and stories)
- Satan’s National Park (oil-drenched landscape)
- Childhood (traumatized survivors)
- And a smoke arose, like the smoke from a furnace (burning oil wells)
- A Pilgrimage (firefighting)
- A Dinosaur’s Feast (vehicles, opera music)
- Protuberances (boiling oil)
- The Drying Up of the Wells (capping wells with new hardware)
- Life Without Fire (some of the fires are re-lit, great narration here)
- I am so weary of sighing, oh lord, grant that the night cometh (finale)
Minimal narration, lots of slow motion. Great music selections from Mahler, Arvo Part, Prokofiev, Wagner, others. I know little about the Kuwait war apparently – why were the Iraqis torturing people to death? But these details are beyond the scope of the film.
Great point by Noel Murray:
Herzog was booed at the Berlin film festival after a screening of Lessons Of Darkness, and accused by the audience of being more interested in pretty pictures and philosophizing than in the human toll of the Gulf War. That’s not an entirely unfair criticism. Throughout his career, Herzog has shown less engagement with any one particular political conflict or social issue than with the bigger picture of how humans continue to fight with each other and with their environment. But then that’s why Lessons Of Darkness is still so beguiling, decades after the war that inspired it.
The words attributed to Blaise Pascal which preface my film Lessons of Darkness are in fact by me. Pascal himself could not have said it better… With this quotation as a prefix I elevate the spectator, before he has even seen the first frame, to a high level, from which to enter the film. And I, the author of the film, do not let him descend from this height until it is over. Only in this state of sublimity does something deeper become possible, a kind of truth that is the enemy of the merely factual. Ecstatic truth, I call it.