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Werner Herzog - A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  2,133 ratings  ·  172 reviews
This edition of Herzog on Herzog presents a completely new set of interviews in which Werner Herzog discusses his career from its very beginnings to his most recent productions.

Herzog was once hailed by Francois Truffaut as the most important director alive. Famous for his frequent collaborations with mercurial actor Klaus Kinski - including the epics, Aguirre, the Wrath o
Kindle Edition, 592 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Faber & Faber Film (first published July 2003)
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Aug 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are just too many fantastic stories here, from the time Herzog intentionally jumped onto a bed of cacti in order to appease a bunch of dwarves, to the time he was life-flighted out of a country in a cage being hoisted by a helicopter ("I was frozen to the cage, so the film crew had to urinate on my hand!") But maybe my favorite was the exchange about Herzog eating his shoe, which went something like this:

Herzog: There should be more shoe-eating in this country! Do you remember that man who
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
if you asked me as a child what i wanted to be when i grew up, i would say herzog. you might want to avoid me when i have this in my hands because i'll start reading you my favorite passages, you'll have a beard a mile long by the time i'm finished. even if you're a woman. ...more
Chris Ziesler
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you are hoping to gain some deep insight into the process by which famous directors plan their storyboards and ensure that they have adequate coverage of their angles from this book, save your money and buy a different one.

If you want to discover more about Herzog's private live, you should look elsewhere.

If though, like me, you are captivated by the power of Herzog's films, the poetry of his landscapes, the direct and fearless assault he makes on subjects as diverse as the aftermath of the G
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, eccentrics, 5-star
Herzog is, simply, incomparable. Who else thinks or speaks like this man? His rare combination of humility, disarming thoughtfulness and blunt honesty provide an antidote to the typical glibness of those involved in the movie business. Of course, Herzog would probably dislike someone associating him with the movie business; he'd argue that he was in the business of dreams. And he would be right. He is a craftsman of dreams. (He would undoubtedly reject being called an artist of dreams, although ...more
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dwarfs, visionaries, Herzog buffs
Herzog on Herzog was created from a series of interviews with Werner Herzog. The interviewer, Paul Cronin, then edited the results of these sessions by combining answers relating to the same question or topic and excising the material that did not relate to the director's creative output. The resulting "interview" reads like a long conversation that runs mostly chronological from Herakles to Invincible. It ends with Herzog admonishing the interviewer, "Don't you ever listen to the Song of Life." ...more
Monica Alicia
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. Inspiring read even if you are not a fan of his work. Really puts into perspective how much can be accomplished if only by the sheer will of an individual. No doubts, no excuses, no circumstances to harsh to finish what seemed impossible.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Luminary. Herzog is a contrived and dour and absurd man, and yet charming and sincere. Here is him describing one 6 month block of his youth:

I ended up penniless and was pushed around from place to place for weeks until finally I was picked up on a country road by the Franklin family. The mother had six children between seventeen and twenty-seven, her husband had died and there was a ninety-three-year-old grandmother. I owe them so much, this wonderful, crazy family who put me up in an attic
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have enjoyed many of Werner Herzog's films but knew little of him otherwise before reading this book. The author interviewed him over many years and organized their conversations according to the order of release of the films they discussed. Herzog cooperated with the author reluctantly... "Facing the stark alternative to see a book on me compiled from dusty interviews with all the wild distortions and lies, or collaborating – I choose the much worse option: to collaborate." The result is a fa ...more
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, movies
I wasn't perplexed to begin with. Since I saw "Aguirre" in the 1970s I've been a super fan, in love with the mystery and poetry of Herzog's films.

I don't know if I'll finish this fine book, because, the more I hear from Mr. Herzog, explaining away the 'perplexity,' the more I just want to remain inside his films and not his mind.
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book, which contains interviews with one of the most interesting directors of all time. I found that in Herzog's life there was an episode which is very similar to the story that is told in Rachel Joyce's "The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry". Fantastic how things like that could actually happen! Recommend this book for Herzog's fans and those who are interested in New German Cinema. ...more
Herr Herzog explains it all.

And offers up some wonderful reading lists, too.

Nicolò Grasso
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book kept me company for a little over a year. I was already a big fan of Werner Herzog, but reading this while watching most of his films (seen 49 and counting) has put him in the pantheon of my favorite artists of all time. A brilliant read that even those who have not seen his films can still greatly enjoy.
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The bulk of this book is a dialogue between Cronin and Herzog - or rather, Cronin gives a theme and Herzog delivers a small essay. The later parts are a few collected poems of Herzog, an autobiographical fragment of traveling through Germany, and a few essays on Herzog.

The dialogue goes through Herzog's entire life and work up until ~2013, focusing mostly on his movies, especially his philosophy of his work. What impressed me most about this is how much Herzog is on fire for his work, he never c
Derek Davis
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good lord, what an amazing man. Werner Herzog has not only made some of the most stunning and wrenching movies of the last 50 years, he's also been everywhere, done everything and been involved in every roiling controversy imaginable.

The book is a set of chronologically arranged interviews covering Herzog's youth, followed by commentary on just about every film he produced through 2001.

At age 14, he walked from native Munich to the Adriatic coast simply because he felt like it. He came to Ameri
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Always take the initiative. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in a jail cell if it means getting the shot you need. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey. Beware of the cliché. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief. Learn to live with your mistakes. Study law and scrutinize contracts. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern. Keep your eyes open. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your ha ...more
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an extended interview between Cronin and Herzog and covers his early life and his filmography up until Invincible (2001). Simply put, if you a fan of Herzog’s films this is a must read. Like his films, Herzog is funny, insightful and unique. A lot of this ground is now covered in Herzog’s DVD commentaries, and if you have listened to any of these you’ll be quite familiar with his “ecstatic truth”, his “fever dreams” and his handling of Klaus Kinski. The real treat is the discussion ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It took me four months to read this, largely because I felt I needed to see the movies referenced in the book. I had to find them everywhere from youtube to the Werner Herzog company in Germany to PAL formatted discs to ROKU channels and so forth. All in all, I've seen 33 of his movies now, more than any other director. It's a fascinating book if you find him a fascinating director, as I do. ...more
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
They only thing that's wrong in this book is Herzog's estimation of how unimportant it is. I would argue that it might even change the course of your life. ...more
Feb 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this while going through Herzog's filmography this month (vaguely up until the endpoint of this book). Interesting read! ...more
Jul 06, 2020 added it
I stopped reading because the more Herzog explains himself, the less magic there is.
Khris Sellin
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is just no one on Earth like Werner Herzog, and this book is a fascinating glimpse into the way his mind works and offers up too many great stories to be highlighted here. I savored this one for a while because I didn't want it to end. ...more
Doctor Moss
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book to learn more about Werner Herzog and his movies. It went way beyond my expectations. What I learned is just how far from a stereotypical movie-maker Herzog is. It’s not about the technical side, or even in some ways about the story. What matters most is achieving direct touch with life through film — screw the trickery, the perfection of endless shots and editing, CGI, and even digital media. Meaning thrives in its raw state.

Herzog’s world is hyper-meaningful. What means noth
An elegant and poetic series of interviews with our greatest living director. He absolves himself of the many mistruths brought against him over time (not that I fell prey to them anyway). My favorite part is when he's asked to describe what a Werner Herzog film school would be like. Herzog's response (I'm paraphrasing) is that any students of his imaginary "film school" would have to first walk 5,000km just to get there. Then, spend weeks mastering other physical skills. He admits that he doesn ...more
Brian Hacker
Jan 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Werner Herzog is an artistic genius, indefatigable film-maker, champion of the underdog and all-around badass. This book is a great companion to his work, as well as an entertaining read due to it's anecdotal, conversational style. I honestly believe he's among the most important
artists of his time and a big inspiration to me.
Everyone should look up the story of his being shot
during an interview with the BBC outside his house,
then finishing the interview before going to the's ridic
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Werner Herzog was 6, he became very ill, and his mother had to drag him on a sled across snow-packed Bavaria to get him medical treatment. He laid in a hospital bed for eight days -- yet he never complained or grew bored. This is because he pulled a piece of string from his hospital blanket and played with it for the entire time. "I guess I saw a world of imagination in that piece of string," says Herzog.

There is a lot of stuff like that in this book. Recommended, especially for string fana
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like movies
this book is completely brilliant. herzog is a true poet. all of his ideas about athleticism and space in filmmaking feel really fresh to me. i can't imagine anyone not enjoying his stories of walking from munich to paris to save lotte eisner's life, or of being buried in a snow cave for two days without food, or of eating a piece of chocolate to stop one of klaus kinski's tantrums... even if you don't know or like his films. herzog can come off as hyperbolic and grandiose, but i never found mys ...more
Jan 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant to finally get the man's own perspective. Some of the legendary tales are put to rest and even more amazing adventures are discovered. He is ultimately lucid and one of the true greats of film, which he says is for illiterates. No challenge seems too epic for Herzog. He enlarges the scope of what is possible in the life of one person. ...more
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: filmmakers
Herzog is a big inspiration to me. A must read for everybody, regardless of your interest in Werner Herzog or even film for that matter. The entire book is comprised of transcribed conversations between Herzog and Paul Cronin. While this format could become boring with most other people, Herzog is so poetic in his speech that it was consistently captivating from beginning to end.
Cindy Samul
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
There are already a lot of great reviews on this book, so all I can add is this - if you are involved in any kind of creative endeavor, I highly recommend this book. If you are involved in film/video run to get this book, it's a must read. ...more
Vincent Saint-Simon
To a Reader Whom this May Concern:

I was once told that this book reads like scripture. "Like" is too weak a word.


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