Pretty Messed Up #3: Heading Towards Certain Death
In his documentaries, German filmmaker Werner Herzog has made poetic pessimism his trademark. His somewhat slurred voice over narrations are one of a kind, often stressing the insignificance of man in the face of the indifferent power of nature. He seems to bask in the bleakness of his own words, sometimes making it hard to gauge whether he is serious or jesting. Herzog actively cultivates this double status of poet and prankster by voicing an existential documentary on the travels of a plastic bag or reading an invective-laden bedtime story.
Peet Gelderblom‘s mash-up plays on this aspect by combining audio from Herzog’s antarctic documentary Encounters at the End of the World with footage from a very different kind of icy movie: the animated musical Happy Feet. The result is a surrealist clash of heavy-handed narration and lighthearted visuals. It’s a clash that, for one thing, reveals the appetite for Hollywoodian hyperboles in Herzog’s dramatic narration.
The same sense of mischief that characterizes Werner Herzog’s output, permeates this mash-up. The German auteur has confessed to sometimes bending the truth, even in his documentaries. Herzog contends that his “alternative facts” are meant to illuminate the viewer, not to defraud him. Gelderblom’s “alternative cut” is more bent on confusing the viewer, thus prodding that viewer to make sense of things himself instead of relying on the (word of the) director. How much of the penguin’s fate is nature’s doing, and how much is man’s?
This mash-up is part of a series of similar efforts, Pretty Messed Up, the brainchild of Dutch director Peet Gelderblom. Catch up on the other episodes in this series via these links:
This video essay includes clips from:
Happy Feet [feature film] Dir. George Miller et al. Kennedy Miller Productions et al., USA and Australia, 2006. 108 mins.
Make My Movie Challenge – JCVD [web project] Funny or Die, USA, 2015.
The music and voice over narration are from: