Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fata Morgana

There was a trend in the sixties and seventies for directors (Godard, Tarkovsky, Marker) to use real locations in science fiction films to emphasise, in J.G. Ballard’s words, that earth is the alien planet. However, it was Werner Herzog who took this approach furthest in Fata Morgana (1971), jettisoning the science fiction plot altogether and retaining only a sequence of images that convey a strange world seen for the first time: strange cities and abandoned structures, deserts like the surface of other planets, mysterious landforms. In one sequence shot in Algeria, tower like structures are visible in the haze of the horizon, arranged like the soft forms in a Giorgio Morandi painting. In another, the desert rolls past in sharply defined abstract curves, like the dunescapes of Edward Weston. These landscapes were all real locations, unfamiliar to Western cinema goers. But stranger still were the mirages that Herzog filmed in the desert: floating lakes, blurred rocks and mysterious moving vehicles, none of which were there. Here, in his search for new images, Herzog went beyond the idea of locating rarely seen locations and found landscapes that only existed as atmospheric phenomena.


Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if you happen to know the location of the amazing waterfall in that film. I am haunted by that image.

Plinius said...

Sorry, no. Someone else may know... The DVD has a great commentary by Herzog - he may mention it there. I don't own a copy of the DVD... maybe I should!