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The German film director Werner Herzog sets out to the Scottish Highlands to make a documentary, "Enigma of Loch Ness", exploding the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. Meanwhile, another documentary film crew is making a film about Werner Herzog, and we see the production of "Enigma" from their point of view. Shooting on a rented boat, tensions begin to rise as director Herzog and his producer, Zak Penn, find themselves at cross-purposes on the black surface of Loch Ness. Things get very edgy when the film crew starts seeing shapes in the murky water. Written by
Martin Lewison <email@example.com>
Zak Penn and Werner Herzog perform the DVD commentary while still in character, trading insults frequently, scolding each other and referring to a fake legal agreement that presumably would have been reached after the events take of the film take place. Their argument gets so heated that Herzog 'leaves' and the commentary stops and then restarts, this time hosted by Penn and producer Jana Augsberger. See more »
Yes, I named the boat Discovery 4. That was my idea. I thought it sounded cool. It was very important to me to build a credible expedition, that's why I had the jumpsuits, that's why I had that sonar. I wanted people to think and to feel like this was an authentic expedition to find the Loch Ness Monster. Jacques Cousteau didn't go out in a boat called, you know, the Tweety Bird. You know, it had some cool name, I don't know what it was, but I'm sure it was cool. And... Discovery 4. You know, ...
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Everything The Blair Witch Project and The Last Broadcast wanted to be!
The film appears to be a documentary about John Bailey making a documentary, "Herzog in Wonderland", about director Werner Herzog, who is himself undertaking a documentary seeking the truth behind the Loch Ness Monster and the cultural facts that lead to such beliefs. We witness Herzog and his crew from the earliest stages of their supposed documentary. Problems begin creeping up almost immediately, growing in severity until everyone's documentaries are abandoned in a climactic horrific incident--the Incident at Loch Ness.
This is really a brilliant film. The appearance is just a conceit. What's really going on is a very clever nested mockumentary that is basically This is Spinal Tap (1984) meets The Blair Witch Project (1999) in attitude and tone, with the twist that our protagonists are not fictional characters, but real people playing spoofed version of themselves.
Similar to some other recent faux documentaries, Incident at Loch Ness plays with the difference between truth and falsehood, fact and fiction, cinematic illusions and reality, while explicitly claiming to explore the same, occasionally untruthfully, in a cinematic equivalent to Epimenides' famous paradox, where a Cretan is claiming that "All Cretans are liars". It's sly enough to even make a committed postmodernist's head spin, and unlike other attempts at similar material from other filmmakers, Incident at Loch Ness has insightful things to say on many different levels--the postmodern playfulness isn't just pretentious here.
In fact, this is the film, minus the humor perhaps, that The Blair Witch Project and The Last Broadcast (1988) wanted to be. Unlike those films, here documentary really seems like documentary. First-time director Zak Penn (who is an experienced screenwriter) is smart and knowledgeable enough to know that documentaries (and even home movies) do not tend to look like they were filmed by someone having a seizure (both BWP and TLB), and they do not tend to feature monotone, extremely amateur comments from the faux interviewees which are then arbitrarily edited into frequently repeating snippets (TLB). Penn's intelligent approach results in Incident at Loch Ness feeling "real", which is exactly what it needs to do. The verisimilitude is only belied by the very funny, increasingly absurdest plot, when we're firmly in This is Spinal Tap territory.
Like This is Spinal Tap, Incident at Loch Ness is as funny as it is because it is so close to the truth. It only slightly exaggerates what really happens in the world of film and television--the ridiculous moves by producers in the hope of creating a more profitable product, the personality clashes and often "political" and subversive machinations in behind-the-scenes relationships, the toying with "the real" in reality shows and documentaries--giving the satire a lot more weight. For Herzog fans, there is a hilarious spoof overview of his past work near the beginning of the film, and fans will also simply delight in Herzog being able to poke fun at himself so easily and naturalistically.
But in trumping BWP and TLB, Incident at Loch Ness is a very realistic horror film as well, with horror coming not only in the climax when some characters end up dead, but all throughout the film with various minor disasters/problems, all threatening to send the feigned Herzog documentary to hell in a hand basket.
Incident at Loch Ness wouldn't have worked without excellent performances, making it even more notable in that the majority of the cast are not most well known, or even very experienced in some cases, as actors. The DVD is worth checking out, as Penn and Herzog do the main commentary in character. There are ample deleted scenes and lots of Easter eggs, as well, including hidden "serious" commentary.
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