TIFF Docs

Into the Inferno

Werner Herzog

Intotheinferno 01

The great Werner Herzog teams up with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer for this globe-trotting tour of some of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes.

"Obviously there is the scientific side to our journey," says Werner Herzog, narrating this film essay on volcanoes. "But what we are really chasing is the magical side, the demons, the new gods. This is the itinerary we have set for ourselves no matter how strange things may eventually get."

On this quest, Herzog is joined by Clive Oppenheimer, a volcanologist from Cambridge University. They first met 10 years ago, when Herzog was in Antarctica to film Encounters at the End of the World and Oppenheimer was there to study Mt. Erebus. They each recognized a kindred spirit - in 1976 Herzog made La Soufrière on the island of Guadaloupe, where a volcano threatened to engulf the island.

Herzog and Oppenheimer travel to multiple locations for a meditation on volcanoes and their meaning. In Indonesia, they cross into a restricted zone to come dangerously close to an active volcano. In Ethiopia, they join paleontologists during a rare find of fossilized human bones. In North Korea, they gain entry to the restricted country on a science mission to observe Mt. Paektu. In Iceland, they study the landscape that emitted the 2010 ash cloud that paralyzed air traffic for weeks.

On the journey, Herzog pays tribute to the late French researchers Katia and Maurice Krafft, who were known for filming more closely to lava than anyone else. Their stunning footage of magma rivers evokes the hellish landscape of the man-made Kuwaiti oil fires in Herzog's 1992 film Lessons of Darkness.

Into the Inferno artfully blends reportage, history, and philosophy into a riveting cinematic experience. Looking into a volcanic funnel, Herzog observes "a fire that wants to burst forth and it could not care less about what we are doing up here."

THOM POWERS

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