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La Soufrière (1977)
"La Soufrière - Warten auf eine unausweichliche Katastrophe" (original title)

7.7
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Herzog takes a film crew to the island of Guadeloupe when he hears that the volcano on the island is going to erupt. Everyone has left, except for one old man who refuses to leaves. Herzog ... See full summary »

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Title: La Soufrière (1977)

La Soufrière (1977) on IMDb 7.7/10

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Herzog takes a film crew to the island of Guadeloupe when he hears that the volcano on the island is going to erupt. Everyone has left, except for one old man who refuses to leaves. Herzog catches the eeriness of an abandoned city, with stop lights cycling over an empty intersection. Written by Mike Konczewski

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1 October 1977 (USA)  »

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La soufrière  »

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[last lines]
Narrator: There was something pathetic for us in the shooting of this picture and therefore it ended a little bit embarassing. Now, it has become a report on an inevitable catastrophe that did not take place.
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Gape in horror, gasp with relief.
29 September 1999 | by (Dublin, Ireland) – See all my reviews

Wonderful Herzog documentary, not least because it makes fun of his own certainties. The year is 1976, and the island of Guadaloupe is under a rumbling volcano. Herzog hears about how the town completely evacuated except for one man, and, being Herzog, flies out, with two cameramen, to meet him. Herzog has always had a rather tiring obsession with marginals of society, the dumb, the deaf, the wild, the insane, etc., anyone who refuses to live by society's conventions, but adamantly follows his own way, even if it is to destruction. This is tiring because this 'rebellion' is rarely chosen, or even conscious, and one gets the nagging feeling that Herzog is patronising his subjects, interpreting their pain for them, because they don't know any better.

So one's fears about the film are immediately raised as Herzog and friends helicopter into the island. But what he finds there is more like an episode of THE AVENGERS. There is something very frightening and eerie about an empty, abandoned town, prompting all kinds of disturbing fears. The traffic lights still flash, TVs are still on, donkeys roam the streets, on which lie dying, starving dogs. Snakes, fleeing from the imminent eruption, float drowned in the sea. There is not a boat or vehicle in sight in this coastal town. This is magnificent filmmaking, also reminiscent of Resnais' tracks in NUIT ET BROUILLARD through abandoned concentration camps.

Herzog then does typically loopy things, trying to get as far up the volcano as he can, only to be hilariously pushed back by toxic clouds. The man's hubris, usually so grating, is amusingly punctured here. To build up our fears, he relates the tale of nearby Martinique, whose volcano gave out the exact same warnings, and whose principle city was completely reduced to cinders, 20000 dying. Only one man survived, an incorrigible prisoner, locked in isolation. His burns made him a favorite on the freak-show circuit, and Herzog, somewhat suspectly, shows us photographs of him with his injuries, inviting us to join in the gawping.

I won't spoil what happens next, but Herzog's grand narrative of the epic, rebellion, the extremes of experience are give short shrift from Nature and Reality. But there's no denying the power of interviews with men just lying there waiting for 'God's will'. A great film, one of Herzog's best.


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