Lessons of Darkness shows the disaster of the Kuwaiti oil fields in flames after the Gulf War. This comes packaged with a special bonus DVD of Fata Morgana, which also takes a special non-linear look at the beauty of the S... more »ahara Desert.« less
A visually stunning Herzog documentary worth preordering.
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While I cannot comment on this particular DVD issue, I have seen a PAL video of "Lessons of Darkness" and cannot express how thrilled I was to see that Anchor Bay had scheduled this film for release. In addition, they have included an extremely rare, full length documentary, "Fata Morgana," which I have never successfully been able to track down on video (as if Lessons of Darkness alone were not sufficient incentive to order this DVD). Given the high quality of the video and audio transfers for the other Herzog films in Anchor Bay's catalogue, I have little doubt that this DVD issue, which like the other Herzog issues includes audio commentary, will be nothing short of outstanding. Now if only the catalogue of Fassbinder, Godard, or Resnais films on DVD were equally exhaustive.Lessons of Darkness is a haunting account of the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields in the aftermath of the Gulf war, and, with the exception of a few engaging interviews with local village dwellers, is told almost exclusively through images, set to the music of Mahler, Arvo Part, and Strauss. This is perhaps Herzog's most absorbing film visually, and, with due respect to "God's Angry Man" and "Little Dieter Needs to Fly," the latter also being released by Anchor Bay, "Lessons of Darkness" is perhaps the director's most compelling documentary. Moreover, the images of the firefighers struggling to put out the infernal flames rising out of the oil fields are all the more timely and moving given recent events. Highly Recommended!"
A Haunting and Hypnotic Masterpiece
youngvelvet | Calgary, Canada | 07/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fata Morgana is an absolute masterpiece. It's Werner Herzog's most unconventional film and the most bizzare film I've ever seen. It doesn't have a plot or story. Instead, we're presented with a brilliant collection of images, words and music woven together by a master filmmaker. Fata Morgana is not a documentary either. Most of the people in this film are directed and given lines to read. It has some of the most beautiful and haunting images ever commited to film. Herzog photographs actual mirages and we see cars and people floating around in the middle of the desert who aren't actually there but hundreds of miles away reflected due to the heated strata of air. All of the tracking shots were done with a camera mounted on top of a VW van that Werner Herzog drove himself. The use of music in this movie is amazing; from Leonard Cohen, Mozart, Blind Faith and the Third Ear Band. Imagine Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey taking place in the desert instead of outerspace. Fata Morgana is so hypnotic that it has the ability to make you feel as though your spirit has left your body. This film is a must see and is not recommended for conformists who've been forced fed a steady diet of Hollywood-commercial fast food movies. It will change the way you view films. Rating: 10 out of 10."
A science-fiction elegy about demented colonialism
Salvador Fortuny Miró | Tarragona , Spain | 07/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"" Fata morgana " means mirage, a metaphore used by german filmmaker Werner Herzog to show us our decadent world as a phantasm, connecting in a very personal way with the pessimist and romantic philosophy of Schopenhauer and a mayan ancient myth that explain the world as a creation that has not been finished. " Fata morgana " is at the same time a disheartened and mesmerezing movie: during the two first parts of the film Herzog blends apocalyptic and ghostly images of Sahara desert ( animals skeletons burned by the sun; tumbledown airplanes in the middle of nowhere )with segments of the mayan myth of Creation ( the " Pupul-Vuh" ) narrated by prestigious cinema essayist Lotte Eissner. The third and last part, ironically entitled " The golden age ", of this shatteredly lyrical movie introduces several sardonic and bizarre vignettes as that one of a west scientist dressed with a picturesque clothing to fit to the new environment holding a lizard, a creature older than man. The message is clear: man is shown by Herzog as an alien; as a grotesque creature that has broken the eerie order of nature in the name of cosmic boredom. In Herzog's words: " Fata morgana" is a "science-fiction elegy about demented colonialism" ( 1 )
" Lessons of darkness " is a haunting documentary shot in Kuwait where Herzog follows the traces of the disasters perpetrated during the Gulf war. ( 2 )
Full-frame ( 1 ) / Widescreen edition ( 2 ). Extras: biofilmography of Werner Herzog; Herzog commentaries about " Fata morgana ""
Salvador Fortuny Miró | 07/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Both films are brilliant, and the appearance of Fata Morgana will be a great relief to Herzog fans who have waited so long to be able to see it again. But it is Lessons of Darkness that is the real epiphany. A haunting, gorgeous, almost perfect film that is deeply moving and deeply inscrutable at the same time. Few films present you with images of such awe-inspiring horror on such a large scale. While it is earth that is hurt here, one cannot help but see this film as an elegy for man. Together with "My Best Fiend," this is Herzog at his most penetrating, deeply insightful best. Nothing else even comes close. The DVD is wonderfully executed, too."
Two Examples of "Post-Production Creation"
Moldyoldie | Motown, USA | 02/03/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Here are two examples of what I like to call "post-production creation"; i.e., shoot some intrinsically compelling footage and then subsequently "make something of it" in the editing suite and at the typewriter. The earlier film here, Fata Morgana, dates from the early '70s and features a barely coherent narrative built around some hauntingly surreal images shot in the southern Sahara/northern Sahel region of Africa. An off-camera narration tells of an Ancient American story of creation while we see images of desert ecology, eerie natural phenomena, and human dereliction. Along the way, we're "treated" to an interesting myriad of both native and European personages and creatures. The late appearance of an apparent husband & wife musical duo (and a quite bad one, at that!) is a most comical non sequitur in this piece of concocted "alien reportage". I have no idea what the opening sequence of repeated passenger jet landings represents other than perhaps a very far-fetched depiction of a supposed alien landing on this strange planet with its forbidding landscape -- work with me here, folks! Considering that much of the footage in Fata Morgana is roughly shot (jerky pans, static handheld shots, etc.), the film in totality leaves one mostly earthbound emotionally. The eerie images of desert mirages do linger in the mind, however. This film is an obvious indulgence by its creator and possibly a peculiar treat for the more open-minded viewer. Much like Herzog's very fine later masterpiece Fitzcarraldo, the story of its making may actually be more compelling to some.
The more technically accomplished film here, Lessons of Darkness, dates from the early '90s and is almost entirely comprised of incredible footage of the massive oil well calamity in Kuwait perpetrated by retreating Iraqi forces in the wake of Operation Desert Storm. Interestingly, it presents much the same otherworldly "apocalyptic" narrative as Fata Morgana; this one, however, is shorter, more compact, and is definitely more compelling from beginning to end. The dramatic images are not only beautifully shot (steadicam and/or tripod must've been used and the aerial shots are nothing short of spectacular!), but are juxtaposed in such a way, and in concurrence with the fatuous narrative and a poignantly moving "human" element, as to make for a most lasting visceral impression. This time, Herzog gets it right!"