WHERE THE GREEN ANTS DREAM
DIRECTOR: WERNER HERZOG
COUNTRY: GERMAN/AUSTRALIAN (1985)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: JORG SCHMIDT-REITWEIN, MICHAEL EDOLS
MUSIC: Classical Music and WANDJUK MARIKA's aborigene music
SUPER FEATURES: ONE HELL OF A STORY AND DIRECTOR
Werner Herzog, is not an exciting film maker, in the sense that his films are full of action, adventure, and dialogue. The combination of these three is what makes Hollywood what it is today. Werner's films have a history of being slow, methodical, and lyrical, I suppose, much like the operas of one of Germany's best known composers.
This film is a bit on the slow side, like his previous ones, but at least, there is a sense of urgency in this film, which has not been seen before. The film has to talk. The film has to educate. And the film has to deliver, because the cause is very important. Were the film a non-entity, it would have done its main themes no good at all, and rendered the whole project a massive waste of time.
This film is about the Australian Aborigines who are now the oldest living civilization on this earth. And in particular, about the twentieth century's special lackadaisical attitude about our own ancestors, or if you will, about modern man's lack of respect for his own history and culture.
In an area, which has been the burial ground for thousands of years, a new development is being readied for construction. And a sympathetic geologist makes an extraordinary effort to preserve the culture of our ancestry. Much
like the Europeans destroyed complete Indian cultures in the Americas, so did the English destroy a whole civilization of 'bushmen' , who are now rendered drunks and destitute (sounds familiar, hey .?) , in the Australian continent. The geologists problems mount, as the aborigines are a purely pacifistic society, and do not fight back. They quietly allow life, and the earth to follow its own calling. And in the same spot where uranium is being mined is also the same spot 'where the green ants dream' a reference to the spirits of those who were buried in the spot.
The whole film is a battle of the white imperialist and a more spiritual, and primitive, culture. The whole process is debased by Herzog in his film as a tragedy of false progress (look at California, then Arizona, now Florida) in
which the local civilization and the bought off authorities have lost total touch with nature and the universe whatsoever. It is an unpleasant sight, and a sad film. You know there is very little the aborigine's can do, and that in the long run, the geologist helping them will be absolved or taken care of. And you end the evening hoping that the aborigine's can mount a strong fight through their spiritual beauty, and their respect for land, and life in all its forms.
This film is a departure from the indulgent acting films which Herzog had done before. For the most part, the better films Herzog has made had been acting showcases for Klaus Kinski ( Natasha's dad ) and a stable of actors, that sometimes feel more like derelicts delivering lines, than acting. However unlike some of his previous films, like FITSCARRALDO (1982); NOSFERATU (1978); and AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (1972), the dialogue is not improvised and looks totally scripted. Perhaps, the different actors involved make for a different film. The best of the actors in this film, besides the many aborigine players and medicine men telling their stories, is Bruce Spence, who had been known to American audiences as the gyroscope pilot in THE ROAD WARRIOR.
This film lacks the visual acuity which had been seen before in Herzog's films, when the scenery and awesomeness of it all would flash on the screen for a long period of time, with magnanimous music accompanying it. But it does have some music, and several of the pieces are done by aborigine players.
Sad as it may be, it is a beautiful film, fighting for a cause that in this day and age, we don't care about anymore. I just hope we ourselves, in our same state, do not fall prey to the changes of the times. The fate won't be pleasant. and we certainly will not like it.
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