A few words from Werner Herzog on The Peregrine

At the Venice Film Festival, 2009 (Photo: Nicolas Genin)

I’m Werner Herzog, I’m a filmmaker normally but I do read. The book I would really recommend is an obscure book published in 1967: “The Peregrine,” by J.A. Baker, who is somebody about whom we know nothing, literally nothing. He wrote in Great Britain when the last peregrines were dying out—now they have bounced back a little bit. He observes peregrines and it’s a most incredible book. It has prose of the caliber that we have not seen since Joseph Conrad. And an ecstasy—a delirious sort of love for what he observes.

The intensity and the ecstasy of observation is something that you have to have as a filmmaker or somebody who loves literature. Whoever really loves literature, whoever really loves movies, should read that book.

In a way, it’s almost like a transubstantiation, like in religion, where the observer becomes almost the object—in this case the falcon—he observes. He writes, for example, about the falcon soaring high up, and then higher and higher until the falcon is only a dot. Then he writes, “and then we swoop down,” as if he had become a falcon himself. And there’s a variety of moments where you can tell that he has completely entered into the existence of a falcon. And this is what I do when I make a film, I step outside of myself into an ekstasis in Greek, to step outside of your own body, a point outside. Baker steps into the fog and in an ecstasy of observing the world it is unprecedented.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful book and it’s on my mandatory reading list of my Rogue Film School. They have to read Roman antiquities, Virgil, Georgics, for example, and old Icelandic poetry, and among others the Warren Commission Report on Kennedy’s assasination, which is a wonderful piece of literature, wonderful crime story. And incredible in its conclusiveness.

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