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What is the difference between the work of Werner Herzog and the ideas and practices of Cinema Verite? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

Werner Herzog is often referred to as the romantic visionary of German cinema. He has become "a symbol of the filmmaker as adventurer, vagabond, and daredevil" (Nowell-Smith, 1997, p.620), a man who is seen to be an "obsessed, half-crazed auteur willing to risk his life for a film" (Nowell-Smith, 1997, p.620). His protagonists are similarly crazed and obsessed people, searching to achieve their dream, which is invariably grounded in rebellion. Herzog's work is infused with a sense of danger, originality of vision - a quest. He is a man who is "uninterested in ordinary domestic situations" (Cousins, 2004, p.357), and has therefore ventured further and further from his native home of Germany, in search of stories concerned with "people under pressure, on the edge, staring death in the face" (Cousins, 2004, p.357), much like what he himself seeks to experience. Herzog was one of several filmmakers who came to the fore during the New German Cinema movement, which lasted primarily between the 1960s and 1980s. Indeed, it was the 1950s and 1960s which saw great change to the face of cinema across the world.

Britain experienced 'free cinema', America had 'direct cinema' and France had the somewhat similar 'cinema verite' - meaning 'cinema truth'. This method of filmmaking was born from radical experimentation and most importantly, technical breakthroughs which "produced nothing short of a revolution, radically altering structure and approach in documentary" (Rosenthal, 1996, p.265) filmmaking. The seed for Cinema Verite was sewn with the work of Dziga Vertov who sought to capture life as it appeared, filmed from the perspective of the unseen wanderer - the so-called 'flaneur'. Vertov believed the camera could capture and understand actuality with unmatched clarity, but it is here that the link between Vertov and Verite severs - the former focussed on visual style, in-camera trickery and most famously creative editing, the latter took the freedom and perceived anonymity and literally ran with it.

The obvious difference between Herzog's work and Cinema Verite is that Herzog is creating films merely based on actuality. Even his documentary work, such as Lessons of Darkness, utilises a filmmaker's eye to re-interpret reality. Despite the taste for improvisation and physical realism, Herzog's films are scripted - they are constructs - they are planned and they are ultimately the work of a dedicated team of people. His stories are retold in his own vision; he seeks to make the viewer see what he sees. His work is connected with running themes - man, nature, obsession, insanity and working against the odds. However, much like Cinema Verite, the camerawork within his films remains often handheld and at a distance to the subject. It is removed and observational - precisely the technique used in Verite. Grizzly Man likewise displays several traits reminiscent of the technique. The self-shot footage (by Treadwell) was copious (100 hours of raw footage) and was trimmed down by Herzog - a figure who was previously completely uninvolved in the subject matter. Much like verite, the film was made in the editing from a somewhat withdrawn back catalogue of real life moments.

The works of Werner Herzog, and the nature of Cinema Verite, are complex and contradictory bodies. They are hard-to-define, they transcend blurred boundaries and they take many forms in varying degrees of connection to the original theory behind the form, be it fictional storytelling or impartial documentary. Herzog and Cinema Verite go together because they are equally contradictory, but similarly they don't go together because they are equally contradictory. The question is, in a sense, unanswerable. There is no clear definition of who Herzog is, or what his work ultimately represents beyond a reflection of himself and his subconscious. There is also no clear definition of precisely what Cinema Verite actually is. Both these entities of the filmmaking world assume a variety of forms and degrees of concentration, and ultimately contradict their foundations.

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