Walked from Germany to France to save her friend from death: Werner Herzog’s inspirational journey of faith

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Walked from Germany to France to save her friend from death: Werner Herzog's inspirational journey of faith

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Director Pablo Maqueda followed the same path as Werner Herzog. He recorded it for his documentary “Dear Werner” (2020) in honor of the German director.

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if you have seen Aguirre, the wrath of God, FitzcarraldoGrizzly Man In hell or Lo and behold You probably know who Werner Herzog is. His face may sound familiar to the audience of The Mandalorian: the 79-year-old German director stars in the first season of the series playing “The Client”.

In both his fictional films and documentaries, Herzog investigates the greatness of nature. Men and women capable of everything and extreme spaces are the common denominator of his cinematographic work, as enormous as his exploits.

The director thoroughly embodies many of his explorations. In In hell enters volcanoes; in Little Dieter needs to fly travel to Laos and Thailand to relive a war story; in Happy people: a year in the Taiga investigate the life of hunters in Siberia; in The cave of forgotten dreams enter one of the greatest treasures of humanity. And these are just a few examples.

Herzog in actor mode.  Here, in The Mandalorian.

Herzog in actor mode. Here, in The Mandalorian.

But there was a day Herzog starred on a trip and decided not to film it, but write it in an intimate diary.

Learn that her friend and mentor Lotte Eisner I was about to die in France, Herzog decided to walk from Munich to Paris to avoid this.. He firmly believed that by traveling 840 kilometers, Lotte would survive, that she would have her “permission” to leave. And with no security other than that provided by her faith, she set out.

Herzog took the straightest route to the French capital on November 23, 1974. By car, I would have reached Paris in about nine hours. She was 32, she had already shot Aguirre, the wrath of God and several recognizable films of his work.

He brought with him only new and sturdy boots, a jacket, a compass and a bag “with the right and necessary”.

The cover of Herzog

The cover of Herzog’s intimate diary, entitled “Delwalking on Ice” and edited in Argentina by Entropía.

The pilgrimage started on Saturday. Along the way, Herzog overcame obstacles he didn’t know would be thrown at him. The main ones had to do with the body itself, the secondary ones with time, the tertiary ones with the police and the Quaternary ones with the places to stay overnight.

“He wanted to be alone with me”, says the artist in the prologue of his diary, published four years later under the title “Delwalking on Ice”.

In the text the director omits many of the most intimate thoughts about his purpose, but constantly, as if to remind us and remember it, he asks himself “aloud” if Lotte is still alive. All her feelings related to the aforementioned obstacles, however, are very well described and take up most of the pages.

Herzog during the stage of his life when he embarked on a journey.  Photo: Right through "From walking on ice" (Ed. Entropy)

Herzog during the stage of his life when he embarked on a journey. Photo: Right through “From walking on ice” (Ed. Entropy)

On the first night of his pilgrimage, Herzog breaks into a weekend home to sleep. He enters the window and finds the objects in transit: a corner bench, a decorative candle, soft rugs, two pillows and a full bottle of beer.

The second, on the other hand, is spent in a stable that serves as a stable for the cows, “with a muddy and heavily trodden floor”. Along his way he always gets away with poles: either nights in a “hotel” or nights on the street in the cold. There are no grays other than those of the sky.

Hail, thunderstorms, rain, snow. Inclement weather is a common currency on his journey, which, at best, has days of 60 kilometers on foot.

His contacts with real life are very few. He sometimes hitchhikes and talks to the driver on duty; sometimes he buys the newspaper; sometimes he goes to a desolate tavern and briefly talks to a girl; sometimes they hosted him for a day in a house.

Lotte Eisner, Herzog's unconditional friend.

Lotte Eisner, Herzog’s unconditional friend.

The most exciting moments in the diary occur at the very beginning, in the middle and at the end. The abrupt cut from the short prologue to the beginning of the journey is shocking, as are the minutes, almost presented as a literary cross-fade, in which Herzog arrives in France.

A farmer who lives near the border tells Werner that to cross the neighboring village he has to cross the snow and a beech forest above. There you will meet the path of Le Champ du Feu. The names of the streets, rivers and cities will be different from that street.

The road isn’t easy at all, especially as gale force winds blow and there’s so much fog that Herzog literally can’t see the palm of his hand in front of his face.

Material of which Werner walks with his balaclava on towards the forest and at the highest point of the route, in the midst of “a mist of clouds”, he realizes that he is lost.

But his bewilderment lasts only until he can see a line of road a few meters from him. Avoiding the fog that prevented him from seeing the sidewalk, he goes down the winding road and finally arrives at Belmont, which he calls “a provincial nothing”.

Is Eisner still alive? Saturday 14th December is the key day. That day the German knocks on the door of his friend.

And now, spoiler alert (for those readers who are only encouraged to “Walking on Ice” for its mysterious facet).


Herzog’s journey from Munich to Paris. Photo: Right through “From walking on ice” (Ed. Entropy).

The answer is yes. When Herzog enters Paris, Eisner is still alive. This, the meeting between friends, is, without a doubt, the third emotional peak of the story.

In the epilogue, or rather gratitude, or rather the space dedicated to honoring the film critic and scholar of German expressionism, Lotte Eisner, Herzog speaks to her friend on behalf of the directors of her time: “Through her we have now established ourselves, because we it has allowed us to relate to our own history and, above all, because you have given us legitimacy ”.

After his disciple’s visit to his home, Lotte would be ready to live another nine years. That Saturday, December 14, Werner didn’t know, but he had achieved his goal.

Eisner and his disciple.

Eisner and his disciple.

Post Scriptum

In 2020 it premiered Dear Werner (Walking on Cinema), a documentary dedicated to the Herzog pilgrimage.

In the film, awarded with a nomination for the Feroz Awards, the director Paolo Macqueda he revives the journey that the Germans made from Munich to France and films it.

Dear Werner could be the perfect icing on the cake for those who want to visually complete the introspective adventure of the legendary director.

Maqueda traces Werner

Maqueda traces Werner’s path in “Dear Werner”.

Source: Clarin

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