Werner Herzog on Fields of Wheat

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Don’t you hear? Don’t you hear the dreadful voice that screams from the whole horizon, and that man usually calls silence?


One of the first shots from your film The Engima of Kaspar Hauser depicts a field of wheat blowing in the wind. It seems an unusually mundane image to begin a film with, and yet it is so striking. What do you attribute this to?


It’s important to note that Kaspar Hauser spent his entire childhood in isolation, locked up in a cell, with no conception of many of the everyday objects we take for granted, with no knowledge of human history or language or beauty. So for Kaspar, seeing the field of wheat would create a moment of unspeakable awe, quite literally.

We wanted to replicate the feeling of seeing something for the first time, to make it much more alive. The winds helped, it gave the stalks of wheat movement like a violent storm at sea. There was the idea that these fields of wheat are believed to be figments of Kaspar’s unconscious, of his dreams, since he’d never seen them before.


And you were confident, and in my opinion correct in your confidence, that simply the wind and the music would have this effect on the wheat?


No, in fact I was convinced that the shot would only be successful if a herd of elephants could be seen trudging through the field in the distance.




Yes, elephants. While there certainly wouldn’t have been elephants wandering through the outskirts of Nuremberg, I thought about the objects that would be most striking to see for the first time. And for me, elephants are the most preposterous creatures in this world. Their trunks are disgusting wrinkled parasites with the head of a pig snout. Their tusks are like Turkish sabers carved from  the harshest quartz. Luckily, our budget forced us to seek out a simpler solution. I fear the absurdity of the elephants would have drawn too much attention away from the other images.


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