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Wheel of Time by Werner Herzog []



Werner Herzog, director of Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre: the Wrath of God and Stroszek, has almost become equally as famous for his non-fiction work in recent years thanks to the success of the fabulous Grizzly Man documentary. Forbes Library is fortunate to be receiving several of Herzog’s documentaries (many of which currently hard to find, out of print titles) through our acquisition of the Pleasant St. Video collection thanks to the kind donations from our patrons.

I first saw Wheel of Time at a Werner Herzog retrospective in Austin, TX. I must confess that I didn’t know much about the film or this German auteur at the time. I would soon receive a wonderful education by purchasing a pass to attend the rest of the festival and also borrowing everything I could find by the director at the video library where I was then employed.

The film chronicles a Buddhist pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, India. At this destination, several artists create a giant, yet intricate, sand design or “sand mandala” (which is referred to as the wheel of time). The creation of the sand mandala is carefully constructed over a lengthy period of time and the viewer is constantly worried that it will not be completed by its deadline (or at least I was feeling tense). The stunning landscape along our travelers’ journey and the vibrant colors of the dyed sand are brilliantly captured by the film’s gorgeous cinematography. There is also a personal interview Herzog conducts with the Dalai Lama.

Wheel of Time, along with many of his documentaries, is certainly as interesting and entertaining as his classic fiction films. In both mediums, we are often supplied with adventure, drama, social commentary, humor and taken to exotic locales. Whether going up in a strange flying apparatus into a rainforest canopy, living in the jungle while filming, hauling a riverboat up a mountain, eating his own shoe, working with wild bears and collaborating with Klaus Kinski (!), Werner Herzog has managed to survive and also produce great art. It wasn’t until a 2006 BBC interview when his life became (arguably) most in danger when a sniper opened fire with an air rifle. After the shooting Herzog calmly commented, “it was not a significant bullet. I am not afraid.”

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