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Fata Morgana (1971)

Footage shot in and around the Sahara Desert, accompanied only by a spoken creation myth and the songs of Leonard Cohen.


Werner Herzog


Werner Herzog (original screenplay)

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Credited cast:
Lotte Eisner Lotte Eisner ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Eugen Des Montagnes Eugen Des Montagnes
James William Gledhill James William Gledhill
Wolfgang von Ungern-Sternberg Wolfgang von Ungern-Sternberg


Footage shot in and around the Sahara Desert, accompanied only by a spoken creation myth and the songs of Leonard Cohen.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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West Germany



Release Date:

1 February 1972 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Фата Моргана See more »

Filming Locations:

Sahara Desert, Africa See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


[All trivia items for this title are spoilers.] See more »


Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
Written and Performed by Leonard Cohen
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User Reviews

very good intentions, which could have been far more effectively realized
4 July 2008 | by lucanuscervusSee all my reviews

I saw FATA MORGANA at its US premiere in 1972 and again in 1975. The film remained in my (inexact) memory as possible model or prototype of the "surreal documentary", and I think I had recollections of Herzog's long pans and tracking shots in a back chamber of my mind while filming material in the Dolomites that I later combined with manipulated WWI footage in my own audio-visual work GEBIRGSKRIEGSPROJEKT. Having lived in Austria for 17 years and now being fluent in the language of FATA MORGANA's narration, I was eagerly looking forward to re-encountering the film on DVD.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I was rather disappointed. The terms of my reaction are largely defined by Werner Herzog's own commentary on the German DVD. That he wanted to make a documentary as if from the point of view of visitors from another galaxy is a good idea and a commendable ambition, but I think the hypothetical visitors from Andromeda would have arrived with a far more anthropologically organized structure of viewing than what Herzog here presents. It would however be unfair to call the film pretentious: it's just not that well thought out. There are indeed some strong images (not only those of the desert mirages ...) that could have been used effectively as expanding material in a more narratively oriented film, or served as basis for a more "experimental" work, such as those of Stan Brakhage (who Herzog professes to admire), but these images are too often weakened by sloppy camera movement or flaccid editing.

I found the use of heterogeneous music (Blind Faith, Leonard Cohen, the Kyrie from one of Mozart's masses) arbitrary and unconvincing. Chance-derived juxtapositions are stimulating now and then, but this is no well-thought-out dialectically surreal counterpoint of image and sound that could really cut into the eye and ear.

Some sequences in the later part of the film (a foreign aid worker having African children recite "der Blitzkrieg ist Wahnsinn", or a scene where German tourists hop up and down in little volcanic craters on Lanzarote) lapse into the ridiculous and unfortunately retrospectively lower the level of what came before.

BUT Werner Herzog is a great filmmaker who has in other works made immense contributions to his art. FATA MORGANA may be one of his weaker films, but I suspect it was essential to his development. I'ts a pleasure and a challenge to view and to think about this film.

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