Into the Inferno. (12A.)
Directed by Werner Herzog.
Featuring Clive Oppenheimer. 106 mins
As his output of dramatic pieces has dwindled away, Herzog has carved out an alternative niche for himself as the Mary Whitehouse of nature films. Restlessly he travels the world, looking for things he can disapprove of; tut tutting over the natural world’s fecund abundance and arbitrary violence.
In this one he is looking into volcanoes, sometimes literally. He doesn't like much, but he does like volcanoes. They remind him that “There is no permanence to what we are doing... there is no permanence to art, no permanence to science.” At the end he gleefully eulogies about “this boiling mass is just monumentally indifferent to scurrying roaches, retarded reptiles and vapid humans alike.”
This is a kind of loose follow up to his 2007 film Encounter at the Ends of the Earth, about researchers in Antartica, in which he made a new friend, vulcanologist Clive Oppenheimer. It's a ragtag jumble of old footage and new material filmed around the world at some of the planet's most forbidding volcanoes. The film is being given a brief spin in the cinemas to coincide with its Netflix release. A shame because a lot of this footage is quite breathtaking and deserves to be seen on a big screen. Less compelling is the film's attempts to explore the cults and belief systems that grow up around them and it has a tendency to lose focus and go off on unproductive tangents.
It's a busy time for Herzog, who has two documentaries out this week. In Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World he takes a look at the virtual world and the communications revolution. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm guessing he won't approve.