Slate: Werner Herzog Takes a Walk

By Jenny Hendrix

Of Walking in Ice by Werner HerzogIn the late fall of 1974, the director Werner Herzog got a telephone call with the news that his friend and mentor, the German film critic Lotte Eisner, was dying. Herzog’s reaction was characteristically extreme: “Our Eisner mustn’t die, she will not die, I won’t permit it,” he wrote at the time. “She is not dying now because she isn’t dying.” Typical Herzogian anti-logic dictated that an event of such symbolic power must be answered by actions of equally symbolic strength: Ergo, like Christ entering the wilderness, trusting that through his suffering salvation would be gained, the young filmmaker determined to walk from his home in Munich to Eisner’s deathbed in Paris. Taking a duffel bag, compass, and a pair of brand new boots, he undertook a 600-mile pilgrimage in the depth of the German winter, between Nov. 23 and Dec. 14. In full faith, Herzog explained, he believed that this coming on foot would keep Eisner alive. “Besides,” he added, “I wanted to be alone with myself.”

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