Wednesday, March 26, 2008

May Movie Geeks Nominations

Your movie nominees for the May screening will be:

Eraserhead (dir: David Lynch)
Night on Earth (dir: Jim Jarmusch)
The Seventh Seal (dir: Ingmar Bergman)
The Conversation (dir: Francis Ford Copolla)
The Killing (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

To place your vote, leave a comment on this post, vote in the poll on the right hand side of the page, send us an e-mail, or show up to the Movie Geeks Club screening of The Pianist on April 29.

April Movie: The Pianist

On April 29 the Movie Geeks Club will screen the Roman Polanski World War II memoir adaptation The Pianist. As always, the doors will open at 7:00, and the movie will start at 7:30.

The Pianist won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the Oscars for Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

This is actually a film I've never seen, so I'm excited to check it off my list.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dan Schneider on Aguirre: The Wrath Of God

Dan Schneider on Aguirre: The Wrath Of God: "DVD Review Of Aguirre: The Wrath Of God"

Werner Herzog may just be the best film director of the last forty years. Period. And I mean worldwide. While some directors of film rely primarily on precision-think Alfred Hitchcock, intellect- think Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, visual poesy-think Terrence Malick, or visceral reaction- think Akira Kurosawa, there is no other major filmmaker that I can think of who combines all of these things so skillfully, as well as having a mastery of music, outside of Herzog. From musical scoring to narrative pacing to visual imagery, he reigns supreme. Before watching his 1972 masterpiece, Aguirre: The Wrath Of God (Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes), for the first time, all I had seen of Herzog were some of his documentary style films and Fitzcarraldo. This was enough to intrigue me to explore his corpus more fully, and I’m glad I did, for there’s a reason this film made him a ‘name’ on par with his contemporary German directors, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders.

Aguirre: The Wrath Of God is a film that combines the best elements of such diverse great films as Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Apocalypse Now, although it is a much more visceral work than any of those films, and is topped off by one of the truly great screen performances of all time, with Klaus Kinski as the titular lead, Don Lope de Aguirre, a cripple who may also be a hunchback- whose outer deformities seem to have scarred him internally, as well. While there are numerous other supporting characters that turn in fine performances, Kinski utterly dominates the screen every second he’s on it, moving like some perverse and slavering arachnid, moving in for the kill of an insect he will never bleed fully for he will never truly get it.

The making of this film has become as legendary as Coppola’s own odyssey in bringing the similarly themed Apocalypse Now to the screen. Aguirre was shot on a low budget of less than $400,000, in about a month in 1971, with a 35mm camera Herzog admits he stole, but it was his fighting with Kinski on the set, and the legend of Herzog’s pulling a gun on the actor, to keep him in line, that helped contribute to its worldwide success. Herzog reputedly wrote the screenplay in two and a half days, if his informative and thankfully fellatio-free DVD commentary with Norman Hill is to be believed, but Herzog is a known embellisher. Likewise, although he has long claimed that the film was based upon the real story of the real Aguirre, a Conquistadore, Herzog admits on the commentary track that the bulk of the film is fictive, with only a few historical details peppered within.

[spoilers excerpted]

While the film may seem slow going at first, especially in the twenty or so minutes after the haunting visual descent from the Andes that opens the film, there is simply no way to not be swept up in the grandeur of this film, for it was shot with just one camera, and in such close quarters, that when I have read this film described as ‘epic’ I know that the critic is merely tossing about a word that will catch someone’s attention. Lawrence Of Arabia is epic, but this film is a highly personalized portrait of one man, in both its acting style and shooting style, that relentlessly circles its lead until we stare full bore into the maw of megalomania. Aguirre himself, seems to look directly into the camera as he declares, late in the film, ‘If I, Aguirre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees, then the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the wrath of God!’ Such a head on glare into insanity gets a viewer almost emotionally claustrophobic by film’s end, which is the exact antithesis of the definition of ‘epic’. And, unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, which ends in transcendence, Aguirre merely ends, before the cusp. And, at only 94 minutes in length, it seems much longer- but in the best and grandest sense, whereas 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now are much longer films, if no more effective thematically and poetically.

Other than the DVD commentary, which with Herzog is always a treat, philosophically and in terms of the film’s making, the DVD transfer by Anchor Bay is sterling, and because it is a period piece, it has not aged one bit in terms of look. It is as vibrant as a recent film, with great tone and an excellent soundtrack by Florian Fricke’s German band Popol Vuh (after the Mayan creation myth), which always is a Herzog strength. They used electronic equipment to generate the almost human sounding choral hymns, which are hauntingly sad without being mawkish, nor bathetic. Yes, the film is slightly cropped for a television screen, at a 1.33:1 ratio, but that’s a minor quibble given the fact the film was originally shot in a almost identical 1.37:1 ratio, meaning Herzog never intended the film to be in widescreen format, some seemingly divine ratio only American films seem to obsess over. What is really terrific is that the film is expertly dubbed into English- in fact, it was actually filmed in English first, so that there is no noxious reading of subtitles necessary for the wise viewer who wants to avoid eyestrain. This means one can enjoy the film in one viewing, and even those people who hate dubbing cannot complain because the dub is as flawless as I’ve ever seen in regards to lip synchronization. There are also three trailers for the film included.

Many critics often opt out of a real discussion of Herzog’s excellence in craft by falling back on the old and misguided notion that he simplistically follows his whims and is guided by the same sort of madness he accuses Kinski of always fostering. Yet, any look at a film like this shows that Herzog transcends such myopic claims, even if unwittingly; although I seriously doubt the man who is such a scrupulous artist has ever let a foot of film be released under his name without a bit of wit applied to it. As for the screenplay? It is brilliant, knowing when to let the characters speak, and what they should say, and also relying on chance events, such as a flood which washed away Herzog’s rafts. He incorporated that misfortune into the tale. Yet, what the film ultimately says means less than the whole experience, or how it is said through the art. Herzog’s small budget becomes a strength when he cannot do overhead shots from a plane, or elaborate crane shots, nor delving close ups that gradually close in on someone, nor elaborate retakes, as Herzog, in the commentary, admits that one take was the rule- although out of practical necessity, rather than the odd obsessiveness of a Fassbinder. The camera, helmed by cinematographer Thomas Mauch, is always with the Spaniards, not beyond them, and by the film’s end the apparent motion of the raft is circular, with shots showing it move from left to right, then right to left, onscreen, whereas earlier the movement of the film and the characters was always straight ahead, almost at the viewer. The final shots, with the deluded madman Aguirre in full rant, has Herzog in a speedboat, circling around, adding final anomy to the motion of the story, and possibly history. Yet, there are other bravura celluloid moments, such as the aforementioned leaving of the horse, an early shot of the ferocious and turbid brown rapids that Herzog holds on long enough to unsettle a viewer, raindrops being left on the camera lens during a drizzle on the river, and an eerie close up of an Indian flutist, whom Herzog says, on the commentary, was retarded.

Yet, Herzog admits with justified pride that this film succeeds precisely because it does not follow the Hollywood formula: there is no real hero to root for, no predictable victory to cheer for, no visible bad guys, and no romantic interest for the leading character.

[spoilers excerpted]

Aguirre: The Wrath Of God is an indisputable masterpiece, and one of the greatest films not only of German cinema, but human cinema. That Herzog directed it when he was only twenty-eight years old is astonishing. Its combination of improvisation- for Herzog loathes storyboards, calling them the ‘disease of Hollywood’, with an almost Bergmanian chamber drama focus on an individual, also makes it one of the most unique films ever crafted. It is a film to be seen by anyone with a love of art, intellect, and human nature, at any age, and in any age.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

All Systems Go!

We are full steam ahead for Aguirre, the Wrath of God on Tuesday night. Thanks to Russ, one of our oldest and most loyal movie geeks, we will have a copy for the screening.

Capital City Bar and Grill
Doors open at 7:00 PM. Film starts at 7:30 PM.

As always, there is no cover charge or admission fee.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Interesting Facts about Aguirre, the Wrath of God

  1. In order to get the performance he desired, before each shot Herzog would deliberately infuriate Kinski. After waiting for the hot-tempered actor's inevitable tantrum to "burn itself out", Herzog would then roll the camera.
  2. The camera used to shoot the film was stolen by Herzog from the Munich Film School.
  3. The low budget precluded the use of stunt men or elaborate special effects. The cast and crew climbed up mountains, hacked through thick jungle, and rode ferocious Amazonian river rapids on rafts built by natives. At one point, a storm caused a river to flood, burying the film sets underneath several feet of water and destroying all of the rafts built for the film. This flooding was immediately incorporated into the story, as a sequence including a flood and subsequent rebuilding of rafts was shot.
  4. The soundtrack was composed and performed by German progressive/Krautrock band Popol Vuh.
  5. Near the end of the shooting, Werner Herzog thought he had lost all the negatives that the film was shot on. He later discovered that the shipping agency at the Lima airport had completed all paperwork that accompanied the transportation of the film cans, but had not actually shipped them. The cans were thought lost for several weeks before the oversight was revealed.
  6. To obtain the monkeys utilized in the climactic sequence, Herzog paid several locals to trap 400 monkeys; he paid them half in advance and was to pay the other half upon receipt. The trappers sold the monkeys to someone in Los Angeles or Miami, and Herzog came to the airport just as the monkeys were being loaded to be shipped out of the country. He pretended to be a veterinarian and claimed that the monkeys needed vaccinations before leaving the country. Abashedly, the handlers unloaded the monkeys, and Herzog loaded them into his jeep and drove away, used them in the shot they were required for, and released them afterwards into the jungle.
  7. Many of the scenes depicted in the film were unrehearsed and unstaged, and the dividing line between the cast acting in character and simply reacting to their situations as people became very blurry. For example, in one of the opening scenes, when the carriage holding Aguirre's daughter tips over and threatens to collapse, a hand comes in from the right side of the frame to assist the actors in steadying their hold. That hand belongs to director Werner Herzog.
  8. Aguirre was shot in five weeks, following nine months' worth of pre-production planning. The film was shot in chronological order, as Herzog believed the film crew's progress on the river directly mirrored that of the explorers' journey in the story.
  9. Herzog wrote the screenplay “in a frenzy”, which he completed in only two and a half days. Much of the script was written during a 200-mile (320 km) bus trip with Herzog’s football team. During the bus trip, his teammates got drunk after winning a game and one of them subsequently vomited on several pages of Herzog's manuscript, which he immediately tossed out the window. Herzog claims he can't remember what he wrote on these pages.
  10. On one occasion, irritated by the noise from a hut where cast and crew were playing cards, the explosive Kinski fired three shots at it, blowing the top joint off one extra's finger. Subsequently, Kinski started leaving the jungle location (over Herzog's refusal to fire a sound assistant), only changing his mind after Herzog threatened to shoot first Kinski and then himself. The latter incident has given rise to the legend that Herzog made Kinski act for him at gunpoint. However, Herzog has repeatedly debunked the claim during interviews, explaining he only verbally threatened Kinski in the heat of the moment, in a desperate attempt to keep him from leaving the set.
  11. Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now, a movie based on Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella Heart of Darkness, was influenced also by Aguirre, as it contains seemingly deliberate visual "quotations" of Herzog's film. Coppola himself has noted, "Aguirre, with its incredible imagery, was a very strong influence. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Problem with Aguirre, The Wrath of God

Here's the problem with Aguirre, the Wrath of God (or any other Werner Herzog movie outside of Grizzly Man or Rescue Dawn): it's nearly impossible to get your hands on a copy here in Springpatch.

Knowing that a problem might ensue with securing this film for our screening, I ordered a copy from Amazon. Then I was notified that there might be a delay in shipping which would mean the film would not arrive in time for our March 25 screening. I had a backup plan, however. Lincoln Library has the only lending copy of the movie in town. I've checked it out before, and I was more than prepared to check it out again. When I went to check it out, however, I found that it had already been checked out. Until the 24th. I've placed a hold on this copy, and if it is returned on time, we will not have an issue. I'll pick it up on the 25th and all will be well for Movie Geeks Club.

If, however, I cannot secure a copy of the film, I have a couple of scenarios for you. Here they are:

1) We watch the Errol Morris documentary Gates of Heaven. I thought this was a reasonable replacement for three reasons. First, I already have a copy of this film in my possession. Second, this movie is the reason that Werner Herzog had to eat his shoe, which was captured in the short film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Third, many critics, including Roger Ebert, consider Gates of Heaven one of the top ten movies of all time. If we go this route, we will screen Aguirre, the Wrath of God in April and move everything else back one month.
2) We flash forward a month and screen Roman Polanski's The Pianist. This movie is running away with the online vote, and I'm certain it will be our nominee for the April movie. If we screen this movie in March, then we will screen Aguirre, the Wrath of God in April. The old switcheroo, see?
3) We screen the much more mainstream (and not as interesting) Werner Herzog feature film Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale. This film, based on Herzog's 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, is about German-born Vietnam Veteran Dieter Dengler. This is a totally sweet movie, by most standards, but I feel like it lacks some of the oomph that most of Herzog's features exude. Regardless, it would be a Herzog substitute, and one that we could get our hands on readily. If we go this route, we may want to forgo Aguirre, the Wrath of God until a later date, as I think it is in bad principle to show films by the same director in back-to-back months.

What do you think, Movie Geeks? Let us know via e-mail or in a comment on this blog.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Revered Movie Remakes

MSN Movies - Hollywood Hitlist: "In scarier news, Variety reported this week that Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production arm are working on a modern version of the classic 'Rosemary's Baby' for Paramount Pictures. It's become acceptable in Hollywood that no matter how revered a movie is, it's a candidate to be remade. This is one that clearly shouldn't be. Screened today, director Roman Polanski's 'Baby' is just as scary as any modern flick. Plus, how any filmmaker could match the original's intensity is hard to imagine, and a quality director wouldn't go near a project like this with a 10-foot pole after the public whipping Gus Van Sant got for remaking 'Psycho' a decade ago."

Review of Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Here's a film review of Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God.
After seeing Werner Herzog's recent documentary My Best Fiend about his five-time lead actor Klaus Kinski, and also the animated The Road to El Dorado, it seemed like a perfect time to go back and watch Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), which I had been wanting to see for years. The few images I saw from it in My Best Fiend really haunted me, much more so than anything else in that movie.

Though it's slightly less impressive on video, I was still riveted and awestruck. It's a truly amazing movie, an epic made from genius, stubbornness, and madness. It's the story of Lorenzo's search for El Dorado, the lost city of gold. Aguirre (Kinski) is one of the members of the party who ends up taking over a splinter faction and leading the men to their deaths. The whole movie is shot in the jungle and on the Amazon river, and it feels as alive as if it were shot there yesterday. The film is nearly 30 years old and the story five hundred years old and somehow it still seems vivid.

The film benefits from seeing My Best Fiend and knowing a few behind-the-scenes factoids. When it opens on the tremendous shot of an endless line of travelers winding down and around a mountain, and popping up just at the bottom of the frame, we know that there are normally clouds covering that mountain, and that they cleared just for that shot. Herzog says that he believes he had God on his side. What we don't tend to think about is that Herzog put himself through this ordeal as well, placing the camera in very narrow, slippery spots on this hillside.

We also learn from My Best Fiend that Kinski perfected a kind of twist-pivot that brought him snakelike into the camera's view, rather than simply marching into the shot and turning sideways. This shot is used toward the end, when the men are feverish and dying on the raft. Before long, Kinski is cradling his 15-year-old daughter's head and lurching around on the raft, frightening the hundreds of monkeys who have now taken over as its primary passengers on its out-of-control voyage to nowhere.

I think that one reason the film feels so alive is that Herzog never cheats. He never shoots an overhead perspective shot from the comfort of a helicopter. When Aguirre and his band are on their raft, Herzog is on the raft, too. We don't see it from a distance (until the very last shot). As the raft tumbles down the rapids, the camera has water spots on it. We know that they couldn't go back and get the shot again, or cut to a safe master shot. So the water spots made it to the final cut.

Roger Ebert, who considers this film one of the best ever made, calls it "foolhardy", and compares it to other mad masterworks like Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1924) and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979). Pauline Kael wrote about the "film folly" and lists Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 (1976) and D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). These are madmen whose visions are so monumental that whole crews must suffer intolerable conditions for unendurable lengths of time so that great foolhardy films may be made. I was thinking, now that Herzog and Coppola have both been tamed, who is left to make these mad films? Titanic wanted to be such a film, but it was too controlled and its script was too childish. No, it could be that Aguirre is one of the last of these kinds of films. Herzog tried to duplicate it with Fitzcarraldo (1982), which is only a fraction as interesting or poetic as Aguirre.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God remains a treasure. It's a glimpse into a visionary's mind. It's a passionate love/hate poem to the jungle and to Klaus Kinski. It's an incredible statement about the nature of man. And it's as potent today as the day it opened. Hopefully one day it will be available on DVD with Herzog commentary, but for now, the VHS tape, by New Yorker was enough to make me a believer.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Herzog Conversation

A conversation with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris in The Believer Magazine. It is very interesting at it gives a little more insight into Werner Herzog. Here is an excerpt.


EM: When Werner and I first met each other, we took a trip to visit this serial killer [Edmund Emil Kemper III] in prison in Northern California.

WH: Vacaville, yeah.

EM: There were three of us. And Kemper’s lawyer. To circumvent a lot of red tape, the lawyer identified us as psychiatrists. Werner’s producer, Walter Saxer, came along with us. So there was Dr. Saxer, Dr. Morris, and Dr. Herzog allowed in because—
WH: We were scared shitless because Kemper was a very huge man, fairly young, I think still twenty-six by then. But something like six foot five or six foot four.

EM: I think bigger.

WH: Maybe bigger, yes.

EM: Very large.

WH: Capital punishment was suspended at the time he was condemned. And he chose seven or eight consecutive life terms, but he wanted to die in the gas chamber. And the only way to get to the gas chamber when it was reinstated at that time was to kill someone inside the prison. So the attorney was really scared. And he was in a way relieved that he had some solid men as his guards or his company. And reading all the transcripts of Kemper, I had the feeling that what was interesting was that the man, in my opinion—and I’m speaking of Edmund Emil Kemper—he made a lot of sense. In a way he makes a lot of sense, why he killed and how it all originated.

And at the end, after having killed seven or eight or so coeds, hitchhikers, he killed his mother and put the severed head on the mantel and threw darts at it. And then there happened to be some leftover turkey in the fridge from Thanksgiving. And he called the lady next door, the neighbor, and asked—am I correct? Yeah, asked her if she would like to pick up the turkey leftovers, and she walks in and then he killed her as well, and put her in a closet. And then he fled in his mother’s car and crisscrossed the West until he ran out of money and ran out of gas. And in Pueblo, Colorado, he kept calling the police. [To Morris] You know better what happened there. I think they thought he was kind of gaga and didn’t believe him.

EM: He desperately tried to turn himself in to the police by making repeated phone calls from this phone booth. Now he would have had a cell phone. So I guess it’s easier now for serial killers to turn themselves in. And the police kept hanging up on him. They just—

WH: And he was down to his last quarter to make his last call, and then two detectives actually picked him up at this phone booth. I remember their names because they sound very German: Schmidt and Grubb. And Schmidt and Grubb took him to the police station, and what was smart of them was, they just randomly turned on a tape recorder and Kemper spoke for six hours, pretty much nonstop.

And this transcript is really wonderful—

EM: Quite amazing, yes.

WH: Very, very amazing. And Kemper was, in a way, a very sensitive person. When you looked at his hands, like the hands of a violin player, in a way. I remember he looked like an elephant with a Mozart soul.

EM: Yeah. That’s the way Werner described him at the time. An elephant with the soul of Mozart. I’m not sure that most of the prison authorities would have described him in the same way, but at the time I found Werner’s description very interesting. I thought for a long time about it. It made it situational, as if God in his infinite perversity had somehow mismatched Kemper’s various attributes in order to produce some kind of nightmare, some kind of tragedy. I remember thinking, Yeah, if Othello had been in Hamlet’s place, and vice versa, there would be no tragedy.

It’s so mixed up in my mind—Werner in these early years, graduate school, and what I myself was thinking. I was a very disaffected graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. That’s where I first met Werner. It was just shortly after he finished Aguirre and his films were being shown in the United States for the first time. It was an amazing experience to see Werner’s work. There was really nothing quite like it in America at that time, and probably not since that time.

And I became really fascinated by Werner’s films. I’m thinking about it even now, now that we’re talking about it, our attempts to understand what people are thinking. What is going on in another person’s mind? How do they see the world? Kemper was a perfect example. I would drive every day from Berkeley to Santa Cruz and I would attend the Kemper trial. I became a regular fixture. And I would say the trial transformed my thinking about many, many, many things.

In those days, murder trials were chopped into two pieces. There would be a guilt and innocence phase and a penalty phase.

And there was this wacko psychiatrist, Dr. Joel Fort, who took the stand and said that Kemper was not even neurotic. Kemper had killed a dozen people. He had killed his grandparents. He had been put away in a juvenile facility, released under California law when he reached eighteen, and then went on to kill eight more people. And Kemper had described how these murders occurred. He would pick up women hitchhiking. He would be killing a woman with a knife and talking to her, saying, “I hope this isn’t really unpleasant. I hope you’re not uncomfortable. I hope this is not too frightening.”

So, the psychiatrist—I’ll make this as short as possible—the psychiatrist took the stand and said, “You know, this man is not even neurotic. Not only is he not psychotic, he’s not even neurotic, because he can’t empathize with the victim. He has a sociopathy or a psychopathy. He can be completely dispassionate while he is killing another person.” And I started to wonder—I still wonder about this stuff—I started to wonder how in god’s name does the psychiatrist know what Ed is thinking? Maybe Ed has this fantasy of being in control. Maybe in this writing after the fact he imagined himself as being dispassionate. Perhaps he was completely out of control, deeply psychotic. This kind of discrepancy between the accounts that we provide about ourselves and the world.

And I think it’s very much—in a different way—but it’s very much in your films as well, and something that deeply inspired me.

WH: There is something about Kemper and, of course, Ed Gein as well—we had a falling out over Ed Gein at the time, sometime later.

EM: Cannibals can turn friends into enemies. Go figure.

WH: But actually, yes, it was a deep concern and in a way it had to do with cinema, for you at that time were more into the direction of writing. But we had a very, very intense rapport over it. Errol had a problem with me when we tried to find out in Plainfield, Wisconsin, where Ed Gein—the very probably most notorious—

EM: The movie Psycho was based on Ed Gein. Robert Bloch, the writer of the novel Psycho, lived in a small Wisconsin town, Weyauwega, about twenty miles from Plainfield. Ed Gein was notorious. And the farmhouse where he lived alone became the ultimate house of horrors. He had upholstered furniture in his house with human flesh. He was a human taxidermist, cannibal, serial killer, grave robber, necrophile. An all-around good guy.

WH: Errol wanted to know more about the grave robberies, because Ed Gein had not only murdered people. He also excavated freshly buried corpses at the cemetery. And I do remember: he dug up graves in a pretty perfect circle. And in the very center of this circle was the grave of his mother. And Errol kept wondering, did he excavate his mother and use her flesh and skin for some sculptures in things at his home?

EM: A relatively innocuous question. [Laughter]

WH: So the only way to find out is, I proposed, let’s go to Plainfield, grab a shovel, and dig at night. And I showed up in Plainfield, Wisconsin, because I was doing some filming up in Alaska and I came in a car all the way from Alaska down to Plainfield to visit Errol—

EM: I was living with Ed Gein’s next-door neighbors at the time, who I had befriended. Beth and Carroll Gear.

WH: You didn’t show up.

EM: Oh, much later, yes. The chronology of all this is coming back to me.

WH: I was there, but you didn’t show up. And we had a date. It was something like September 10, and I said, I’m going to be there, and you will be there, and you didn’t show up.

EM: He’s unfortunately correct.

WH: And I would have dug, even though Errol wasn’t there. I was kind of scared because people open fire easily in this town.

EM: Well, wait a second. I had been living there. I had become friends with this very strange doctor, Dr. George Arndt. He had written one academic paper in his entire medical career, called “A Community’s Reaction to a Horrifying Event.” Essentially it was a compendium of Ed Gein jokes. I had befriended Dr. Arndt and together we drove to Plainfield Cemetery. He had a very, very big Cadillac.

It reminds me actually of that scene in your Antarctic movie. Dr. Arndt and I had put our ears to the ground in the vicinity of the Gein graves, looking for hollow areas in the earth.

WH: I had forgotten about it completely. So things come back thirty-five years later.

EM: And Dr. Arndt, who was really quite mad—I should tell you at least one of the Ed Gein jokes. Do you remember any of them?

WH: I don’t think so.

EM: Why did Ed Gein keep his chairs covered overnight?

WH: I don’t know.

EM: To keep them from getting goose pimples. So I was there with George Arndt in the cemetery and Arndt had this theory that Ed was so devious that he wouldn’t have gone down directly into his mother’s grave. I had discovered that many of the graves that he had robbed made a circle around his mother’s grave. And Dr. Arndt took this new information and came up with the hypothesis that Gein went down into one of the side graves—he only robbed the graves of women who were middle-aged and overweight, like his mom. He went into one of those graves and then tunneled, that there would be this radial tunnel toward the center, toward his mother’s grave.

Arndt’s theory was that Gein would never have gone directly down into his mother’s grave. Psychiatrists have amazing theories. But he would never go down into the grave. As Arndt put it: Gein was too indirect, too devious. Hence, his radial digging, this tunneling. And I wondered, Wait a second—is she really down there?

I could never get an answer. I could never get a straight answer from anyone. Is Mrs. Gein still buried in Plainfield Cemetery? And I told the story—this was the big mistake here—I told the story to Werner.

WH: And I showed up in Plainfield.

EM: And so there was this horrible realization: he’s actually going to do it. And I have to say, I did get scared. I had this picture—you know, I was always really—I probably still am—trying to please my mother. I had already been thrown out of these various graduate schools. I was a ne’er-do-well, and down for the count, and I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I saw myself arrested with the Germans. I saw this full moon. I saw the Plainfield police. I saw the police photographers. I saw myself being led away with the Germans in handcuffs, the complete disgrace.

So this is an opportunity to apologize. I apologize for not showing up.

WH: I have to apologize for something else, because my car had broken down and there was no mechanic in the mile out there. There was a wreckage yard, and I fell in love with the guy who fixed my car.

EM: Clayton Schlapinski.

WH: Yes, Clayton Schlapinski. And I said that we were going to do a film there in Plainfield, and that really upset Errol a lot. He thought I was a thief without loot. This was his country, his territory, his Plainfield, and I shot in Plainfield. I shot a film, Stroszek, which I think is forgotten and forgiven by now, and we can maintain friendship over this now.

EM: I told Werner: For you to steal a character or a story isn’t real theft. But to steal a landscape, that is a very, very serious crime.

WH: I understand that. I take it to heart, but there actually is a film out there, and we can’t take it off the map.

EM: It’s a very good film.

WH: It has a beautiful end with a dancing chicken, and I really like it.

EM: Yes.

WH: But what might be interesting is what somehow creates movies. What sort of odd fascinations, and they return in a very different form somewhere. And even I forgot about putting the head to the ground and banging the ground and listening whether there was anything hollow. And all of a sudden in the film that I just finished and showed yesterday, something similar like that in staged form appears.

EM: And it’s a wonderful scene.