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Ferocious RealityDocumentary according to Werner Herzog$
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Eric Ames

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816677634

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677634.001.0001

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Sensational Bodies

Sensational Bodies

(p.17) 1 Sensational Bodies
Ferocious Reality

Eric Ames

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter explores how Herzog’s documentaries involve sensational bodies, including the bodies of spectators. The analysis focuses on Land of Silence and Darkness (1971), Herzog’s personal portrait of a deaf and blind woman; and Wodaabe: Herdsmen of the Sun (1989), his quasi-ethnographic film about a group of African nomads. Although topically different, both films are closely related in other, less obvious ways. What links and supersedes them is not just the sensational display of other people or a common fascination with the strange and the ‘exotic.’ It is, much rather, a corporeal approach to documentary filmmaking that works primarily to affect the bodies of spectators. Herzog is clearly fascinated with overcoming extreme physical forces. What the documentaries add, then, is a process of overcoming the perceived and culturally prescribed limitations of one’s own body. It is a process of translation that involves the spectator in various ways, depending on the material at hand.

Keywords:   Werner Herzog, Land of Silence and Darkness, deaf, blind, Wodaabe, ethnography, African nomads, sensational bodies, ecstasy, documentary films

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