Wednesday, 16 September 2009

We Salute Attenborough

I found this unexpected insight into the mind of Werner Herzog (maker of some of my favourite films) on the Werner Herzog Archive:
New Statesman: To British viewers, at least, Encounters At The End Of The World will seem like a very warped take on the traditional TV nature documentary.
Werner Herzog: Yeah but I wouldn't put them down because in Great Britain you have some of the very finest nature documentaries worldwide.
New Statesman: Are you a David Attenborough fan, then?
Werner Herzog: I am. I like his excitement, I like the fervour and how he comes across to an audience is just wonderful. You see the excitement that you feel as a child when you discover for the first time that there are mountains on the moon when you look through a telescope. He transports this kind of excitement, this spirit of wonder, into what he sees and what he presents. So I would not like to put down what you see on television. Some of it is phenomenally beautiful.
New Statesman: In a way, you and Attenborough are trying to get at the same thing, just approaching it in different styles.
Werner Herzog: In different styles, but the wonder and excitement makes us brothers. I salute Attenborough.
New Statesman: Let's hope he sees this interview!
Werner Herzog: Whatever. He knows that he's good.
I'm a David Attenborough fan, too (who isn't?). When I was small, the Zoo Quest programmes on the BBC were an inspiration, and for many years I was an avid collector of creatures in jamjars and wildlife detritus. I still have some of my Zoo Quest books: Quest Under Capicorn sparked an interest in Australian aboriginal people which lasted for many years. When I was about twelve, I used to cover sheets of plywood with imitation bark paintings of goannas, barramundi fish and wondjinas.

It's strange when heroes from two apparently different domains of your life come together like this, and shake hands. Herzog, too, has an interest in indigenous peoples, of course: I wonder whether he read Quest Under Capricorn?

The boy who would be Attenborough

You'll think I'm making this up, but: this photograph was taken on my first camera (a Fed 3) by my father in the Austrian Tyrol, not far from Innsbruck, just seconds after I found this classic Red Deer antler. Remarkably, or ridiculously, I still have that antler, 40-plus years later.*

* Still got the camera, too.

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