Review of “Radical Dreamer” by Werner Herzog: A display of the master director’s fervent idealism.

Estimated read time 2 min read


With an unparalleled level of recognition in the realm of pop culture, he not only talks the talk but also walks the walk with his distinctive voice. Werner Herzog, a filmmaker, visionary, and pioneer of the New German cinema, is the focus of a captivating new documentary by Thomas von Steinaecker. Featuring an impressive lineup of interviewees who have either worked with or know the renowned director, including Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Nicole Kidman, Chloé Zhao, Joshua Oppenheimer, Robert Pattinson, and others, the film is a highly enjoyable watch.

The film’s release coincides with the publication of Herzog’s autobiography, Every Man for Himself and God Against All (which is also the original title of his film The Enigma of Kasper Hauser). I was disappointed that Radical Dreamer does not include Herzog’s account of a childhood knife-fight with his brother over their pet hamster. However, it does feature an outdoor TV interview with Mark Kermode, during which Herzog was shot by a distant fan or enemy with an air-rifle. Herzog later revealed the wound on his boxers and nonchalantly stated that he did not want to go to the hospital.

The movie follows his early accomplishments, such as Even Dwarfs Started Small, and then his grandiose masterpieces, Aguirre Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, both featuring his tumultuous alter ego Klaus Kinski. It also explores his later work in documentaries, including the remarkable Grizzly Man. Zhao explains that all of his films revolve around the same theme and central figure: himself. He portrays himself as the lone dissident, the daring risk-taker, and the existential disruptor, constantly pushing the boundaries of sanity and possibility. This is evident in both Fitzcarraldo and his nature documentary Encounters at the End of the World, where a penguin ventures off into the freezing interior while the rest of the colony stays behind.

Perhaps there is a Wellesian or Hitchcockian quality in the manner in which Herzog capitalizes on his celebrity to continue making films, and his productivity is truly impressive. While labeling a filmmaker as a “dreamer” may seem cliché, it accurately reflects his idealism. Perhaps no other description is fitting.


You May Also Like

More From Author