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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One long put-on. Anybody seeing this film thinking they are in for some
kind of consciousness raising is in trouble. But if you want to see
some Hollywood vets hamming it up and making fun of themselves (and the
all too often self-serious documentary genre) you are in for a treat.
The iconic Herzog is fabulously game, playing himself as the embattled "director" of a documentary about the legend of Loch Ness. Zak Penn plays the "producer" with devilish glee, sending up many of the arrogant sycophants he's no doubt worked with. As Herzog tries to make a serious film examining myth and reality, Penn hilariously decides that the "dramatic tension" would be enhanced by, among other things, making the sonar operator a bikini-clad sex bomb and filming a delightfully bad remote controlled fake "Nessie".
Herzog discovers he's been tricked and threatens to quit, but ultimately decides to continue out of a misplaced sense of professional duty (or is it that he's starting to believe in the monster?). Then things get really weird, until the whole film happily disintegrates into a Blair Witch-style horror spoof. Everybody else in the "crew" gets in on the fun, and the laughs abound. It's great to see films folks satirize themselves (nobody does it better) and you'll have an enjoyable time going along with them.
Who knew that Werner Herzog the director of "Aguirre: the Wrath of
God", "Fitzcarraldo", and other weighty dramas -- could do comedy?
Herzog proves it here in Zak Penn's terrific send-up of "the making of
the movie" documentary.
"Incident at Loch" purports to document a film Herzog sets out to make in Scotland about the Loch Ness monster. Overseeing the production is Penn, a successful screenwriter. Along for the ride are a famous cinematographer, an Academy award winning sound man, a Playboy model, and a radio controlled six-foot "Nessie."
Penn puts it all together in a clever, inventive way. The result is one of the most original and funniest movies of the year.
Like a big budget Blair Witch Project this is a clever and amusing con
job that shows the manipulative power of the documentary but as the
film becomes more and more preposterous and the con becomes more
obvious the joke goes a bit flat.
Lately the documentary genre has been messed with royally with blending opinion and personal agenda with fact mainly for entertainment value ala Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, but this one side steps in yet another direction and seems to me to be satirizing the whole mocumentary process which would make it a joke within a joke and a true original. It's not entirely clear if this is the intent of the film, which only adds to the enigma. I like to think it is.
It is refreshing to see a legend like Herzog willing to poke fun at his own obsessive reputation and it's his charismatic presence that carries the film.
I don't know when the mocumentary first showed up in film but one of the first I recall that's well worth checking out if you like this sort of thing is Woody Allen's great from 1983: Zelig.
My wife watched this for 45 min before asking me if this was a fake
documentary as I did not let on when I put it on for us.
I really enjoyed this movie.Herzog is both a huge ham and absolutely sincere at the same time, what a joy to listen to him talk.Penn as the "producer" is great as he trys to improve the movie with a bit of sex and silly props,he manages slim quite nicely and it is obvious he enjoyed playing the roll.
This show is basically a movie within a movie, a Documentary about Herzogs making his latest documentary on the Loc Ness monster(and the fact that it is a myth). It is cleverly done and even manages to make one jump a couple of times.
Tongue in cheek and gently amusing, certainly worth watching.
Can't say too much without giving crucial elements away. Just saw this at a screening in Boston and thought it was one of the more clever independent films I've seen in the past two years. Any cinema buffs, sci-fi fans, or documentary-lovers would find this a very inventive, well-executed, and highly entertaining piece. It seems like it would be unforgivable of any fan of Werner Herzog's to not see this film. You don't need to be a fan of his films to thoroughly enjoy this doc though. I have never seen one of his films before, but I went right out and rented two of them after seeing this film. Great cinematography, fantastic drama, some laughs, and some pretty terrifying footage that you won't believe you just saw!
This film is answers the age-old question, "what would a Herzog
documentary look like if taken the way of Spinal Tap?" That's right,
after decades of stunning works and intimate studies, Herzog has
finally gone and made (or at least involved himself in)... a
I caught this on the Canadian Documentary channel the other night and was floored by Herzog's famously dry wit, and the utter ridiculousness of the film itself. It's essentially a Herzog project where all pretense of objectivity is supposedly embedded within one film crew as it studies the workings of yet another in the creation of a second Herzog documentary. This documentary is a study of the "Loch Ness" phenomenon, one aimed at taking Herzog's incisive wit (superb UFO quote in the beginning of the film) and great eye to the people involved with, and the history of the subject. OK, straight forward enough. But when a series of events begin to cripple the production, Herzog and his merry band are ultimately drawn into a situation even murkier than the depths of the lake they're studying...
Typical film class issues like Herzog's use of truth vs. the lies implicit in film are given a tongue-in-cheek treatment as the two crews begin to bicker and expose one another, and recurrent themes like Herzog vs. big boats (Fitzcarraldo) are made light of and just as quickly thrown about the wayside, alongside any semblance of reason or prudence. What is left is a fascinating exploration of what a funny sense of humor Herzog has, I mean, who else could include a cameo by Jeff Goldblum, the crew of a boat searching for a mythical fish, ridiculous matching jumpsuits, and clever references to Jacques Cousteau without incurring the wrath of Wes Anderson? Oh, yeah, this film also features brief, albeit fitting, appearances by Crispin Glover and Yucca roots. Genius!!!
The previous user who compared this film to the 'Fishing With John'
series has it down fabulously. However, I have to disagree that you
need to know anything about Herzog to enjoy the film. All you need to
know is supplied in the very deftly-handled exposition.
I'd also compare it to LOST IN LA MANCHA... except, well. And it's kinda like WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, but... but mostly, it's very like THE BL-... well, I should shut up.
All I can say is that the film is proof that there is *something* to this latest onslaught of documentaries. There is great value in the language they use to convey a story and the self-reflexive possibilities are now endless, thanks to Zak Penn.
See this film.
I knew nothing walking into this film and was treated to a delightful
and funny experience. A documentary following a crew on it's hunt for
Nessie. Besides the fun in the quest of the premise, the crew is
entertaining in itself. Werner Herzog is such an interesting person and
filled with so many interesting insights into film-making.
By the end, I laughed, I was scared and I didn't want the film to end. I highly recommend this film and I plan to see it again as I laughed through a few parts of the movie. Go see it!
This has many things I seek: A faux documentary after the manner of
"Lost Silver." Werner Herzog, who is sort of a touchstone for those
interested in merged stylization and the documentary-like magic of
It is a film about a film about a film about a film. It is an examination of truth and fiction merged. Sounds perfect, right?
Some elements are deft. Herzog really is great. I already saw him in a similar real-fiction role in a Harmony Korrine project (similar in spirit to this one). So he really wasn't a surprise. But one gets the impression that he really can live in merged real and fictional worlds. I suppose all great artists can do that.
But the whole thing falls flat, largely I think because the writer went the whole distance with himself. He is the writer/director and he plays that as well. But he doesn't have the oscillating realities that Herzog projects and that is required here. Let's call it the Woody Allen effect: a great idea that the writer had that the same person ruins in the form of an actor.
I have maintained for long that actors cannot understand movies. The interests of filmmakers and actors conflict. But it is also true that asking a filmmaker like Penn to be an actor is just as hard. And just as disappointing.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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