I do not follow ideas, I stumble into stories or into people; and I know that this is so big, I have to make a film. Very often, films come like uninvited guests, like burglars in the middle of the night. They are in your kitchen; something is stirring, you wake up at 3 a.m. and all of a sudden they come wildly swinging at you.
When I write a screenplay, I write it as if I have the whole film in front of my eyes. Then it is very easy for me, and I can write very, very fast. It is almost like copying. But of course sometimes I push myself; I read myself into a frenzy of poetry, reading Chinese poets of the eighth and ninth century, reading old Icelandic poetry, reading some of the finest German poets like Hölderlin. All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the idea of my film, but I work myself up into this kind of frenzy of high-caliber language and concepts and beauty.
And then sometimes I push myself by playing music, for example, a piano concerto by Beethoven, and I play it and write furiously. But none of this is an answer to the question of how you focus on a single idea for a film. And then, during shooting, you have to depart from it sometimes, while keeping it alive in its essence.
—Werner Herzog, on filmmaking
Werner Herzog doesn’t write traditional screenplays. He writes fever dreams brimming with madness, greed, humor, and dark isolation that can shift dramatically during production—and have materialized into extraordinary masterpieces unlike anything in film today. Harnessing his vision and transcendent reality, these four pieces of long-form prose earmark a renowned filmmaker at the dawn of his career.
About the Author
Werner Herzog has produced, written, and directed more than seventy films. He grew up in a remote mountain village in Bavaria and now lives in Los Angeles, California. He is author of Of Walking in Ice: Munich–Paris, 23 November–14 December 1974 (Minnesota, 2015) and Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo.
"A compulsively readable, probing collection. It’s equal parts challenging and satisfying, infuriating and enlightening."—Publishers Weekly
"Herzog seems to peer nonstop into the abyss combining vainglory, cruelty, and madness. Those are the coordinates at which Herzog geolocates humanity."—BookForum
"Scenarios contains more than merely dialogue in cold type. Herzog’s screenplays read like novellas—the characters are fully thought-out and the settings are vividly described, albeit in long, medium and close shots."—Shepherd Express
"Herzog doesn’t write traditional scripts. Instead, Herzog writes scenarios which are like a hybrid of film, fiction, and prose poetry."—Film International