Special Presentations

Salt and Fire

Werner Herzog

Michael Shannon and Gael García Bernal star in this ecological thriller from the great Werner Herzog, about a scientist and a corporate CEO who must overcome their ideological differences in order to avert potential disaster from a volcano on the verge of eruption.

Over the course of his expansive career, Werner Herzog has continuously explored the relationship between the human species and the rest of nature. He first plunged into the jungle with Aguirre, the Wrath of God and then revisited this fecund terrain in Fitzcarraldo. In Where the Green Ants Dream he documented the battle against a mining corporation in Australia, and in Grizzly Man he chronicled a man's quest to become one with nature. Herzog's latest, Salt and Fire, deals with similarly ecological themes, but in a form that's new even to this protean auteur: a genre-bending eco-thriller.

The United Nations has sent a scientific delegation, led by researchers Laura (Veronica Ferres) and Fabio (Gael García Bernal), to investigate rare South American geological formations. But as soon as they land, the crew is kidnapped by minions of rogue businessman Matt Riley (Michael Shannon), who has his own agenda when it comes to environmental protection. Deep inside his compound, Laura becomes separated from her fellow explorers and drawn deeper into Riley's world, but try as she might, she can't predict his final plan.

Shot on Bolivia's awe-inspiring Uyuni salt flats, Salt and Fire takes its tonal lead from this barren and otherworldly setting. Though the plot drawn from Tom Bissell's novel could easily inspire a Hollywood thriller, the treatment is Herzog through and through — from the stylized dialogue and performances to the unsettling editing rhythms. But as bizarre as the visual world of the film is, the environmental stakes are all too familiar.

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