Director Werner Herzog discusses The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft

November 14, 2022 A Documentary Series Screening in LA

On June 3, 1991, a pyroclastic flow erupted from the peak of Japan’s Mount Unzen at over 100mph consuming everything in its path. 43 people were instantly killed by the cloud of superheated gases and particles, including volcanologists-filmmakers Maurice and Katia Krafft, who left behind over 200 hours of footage from their decades of work. In his new documentary, The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft, Director Werner Herzog, who had access to the entire archive, uses that footage to craft a fitting memorial to two people who gave their lives in the pursuit of both science and the pure cinematic image, turning a catastrophe of nature into an act of creation.

On November 14, following the Documentary Series screening in Los Angeles, Herzog sat down with DGA Special Projects Committee Chair Jeremy Kagan to talk about the making of the film.

During the conversation, Herzog spoke about the delicate balance of maintaining and praising the authenticity of the raw footage filmed by the actual subjects of the documentary.

“We used some of these shots to the very end. I left everything. I didn’t want to polish it digitally and remaster it and somehow soften it down. It should stay as raw as we found it. Some of the images and many of the key things were left until there was no frame left. I have complete enthusiasm for what they gave us. We have a treasure that they gave us that is unprecedented in the history of cinema.”

He also offered advice to younger filmmakers who want to pursue documentary filmmaking.

“Follow your vision, be intrepid. Just do it and go out. I see it so often since we’re in the digital world recording with a camera doesn’t cost any money anymore. I see young filmmakers recording hours after hours in hopes that something is going to happen and it doesn’t. You better know what you’re doing. Please shoot what you want for the screen. We are filmmakers not garbage collectors.”

Herzog’s other directorial credits include the feature films, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Fitzcarraldo, Invincible, Rescue Dawn and Queen of the Desert; the documentaries, Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, Meeting Gorbachev, Into the Inferno, Salt and Fire, Into the Abyss, Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Little Dieter Needs to Fly; and episodes of the television documentary series On Death Row. Herzog was nominated for the Academy Award for his 2009 documentary, Encounters at the End of the World. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for his 2005 feature, Grizzly Man. Herzog has been a DGA member since 2006.

You can listen to Herzog's Q&A by clicking the podcast episode embedded below. You can find more DGA podcast episodes here.


Q&A photos by Shane Karns – Print courtesy of Fractured Visions

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