Watch Lessons of Darkness
- 50 min
Lessons of Darkness is a unique and mesmerizing documentary film from the renowned German filmmaker Werner Herzog, released in 1992. It takes place in Kuwait following the Gulf War, in which Iraqi forces had caused catastrophic damage to Kuwaiti oil fields. The film begins with a stunning aerial view of the burning oil fields, and from there, Herzog takes us on a surreal journey through a landscape that appears to be from another planet. The camera glides over smoldering, blackened earth and shows us the devastation of war, as well as the surreal and almost otherworldly beauty of the burning oil fields. The film is not just an observation of the effects of war, but also an introspective examination of humanity's relationship with the planet Earth. Herzog's camera often lingers on the faces of workers who have been brought in from all over the world to help put out the fires, and who labor tirelessly under unimaginably harsh conditions. These workers, who come from places as diverse as Texas and the Philippines, are captured with such intimacy and tenderness that their humanity shines through, despite the devastation surrounding them. Throughout the movie, Herzog employs a surreal and almost dreamlike visual style, with stunning shots of the burning oil fields that look like abstract paintings, set to an eerie, otherworldly score by the composer Ernst Reijseger. The use of light and shadow throughout the film is also breathtaking, with seemingly impossible colors and shapes created by the fire and smoke. As the film progresses, Herzog's narration takes on an almost poetic tone, reflecting on the nature of humanity's relationship with destruction and creation. He speaks at length about the power of fire and the ways in which human beings have harnessed it throughout history - from the forging of iron to the creation of art. His narration is simultaneously melancholy and hopeful, offering a meditation on the impermanence of all things and the ways in which destruction and creation are intertwined. One particularly haunting scene features a group of Kuwaiti children attending a school lesson in a bombed-out and burned-out building. Despite the wreckage around them, the children carry on with their lessons, seemingly unaware of the destruction that surrounds them. The scene is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable hardship. Throughout the film, Herzog never shies away from the harsh realities of war and the destruction that it causes. However, even in the midst of this devastation, he manages to find moments of beauty and connection. Whether it's the bond between workers from different parts of the world, the power of fire to ignite the human imagination, or the bravery and resilience of the Kuwaiti people, Lessons of Darkness is a testament to the human capacity for survival, adaptation, and perseverance. In short, Lessons of Darkness is a haunting and visually stunning documentary that explores the aftermath of war and the ways in which humans relate to the natural world. Through breathtaking imagery and poetic narration, Werner Herzog offers a powerful meditation on the fragility and the resilience of the human spirit. It is a film that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled, and will leave you contemplating the interconnectedness of all things.