The issue with most documentaries, says Herzog, is that they “have not divorced [the medium] from journalism. They are very often ‘issue films’ about a social problem, and there has to be redemption and hope at the end. I don’t like this kind of cinema.” On the other hand, those that aspire to the realism of cinéma vérité “cannot really claim vérité [truth] – that’s silly and I don’t believe in it”.
A truly outstanding documentary should be something completely different from journalism: what it can and ultimately should do is aim “towards poetry, towards some deeper insight and illumination into what might be truth”. These four (plus an extra choice) are the few that have come close. “You have to do me a favour,” he concludes, “and watch these films”.
I came across this quote very much towards the end of the project, I wish I had found it sooner because it does sum up a lot of what this project is about. I am not comparing myself to Werner Herzog in any way, of course, I am not, and it is a reminder – not that I needed one – that what I have tried to do, has been done in various forms many, many times before. But I wanted to reference it, and reference Werner Herzog one last time, as his work, or more specifically, his thinking and his approach has been a constant influence and clarifying presence throughout the two years.
Most if not all of my work on this course has dealt with two main things, storytelling & the meaning of stories, and a very critical outlook on graphic design’s current use within a for-profit arena (as well as my dislike of the siloing of design into distinct disciplines.) And these remain my main interests. I still believe design should create value not profit, I still think design should not be segregated, and I still think stories are some of the most powerful tools humans have and perhaps the ability to tell stories is what makes us human.
It is hard to quantify at this stage what is I take away, what it is I have specifically learned over the last two years. Maybe it is immeasurable, maybe I am still too close to it all.
I did not start the course as a means of changing career direction, nor did I seek to ‘get better’ in a specific or general area. It became – within the modules constraints and parameters – a defined space to explore beliefs, thoughts and approaches that had been rearing their heads for a while now.
I’m not sure I can stress enough how difficult the pandemic, lockdowns, riots, and curfews made the last few modules.
But a week before the end of the module, my beloved little boy and fuffy shadow died in my arms, so in hindsight, I should have spent more time with him and less time with Falmouth and Werner Herzog.