Small Screen Quarantine – Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog (2016)

“The Universe is monstrously indifferent to the presence of man.”

This is the Werner Herzog quote I’m most familiar with, and probably most inclined to agree with. The same sun that creates our atmosphere and the air we breathe, that grows our crops and warms us from cold space is the same sun that will burn us fatally on a leisurely afternoon on holiday at the beach. It’s not there for us but we live by its presence and grace. It’s just there, and we are very lucky for that.

Speaking on the forces of nature in INTO THE INFERNO he refers to a force that is equally indifferent to every living thing, or “indifferent to scurrying roaches, retarded reptiles and vapid humans alike.” It’s entirely unconcerned with anything and everything. Yet we live in this delicate balance that allows us to be there for whatever time we are.

This isn’t a scientific documentary though. It’s about man’s relationship with forces that are beyond our comprehension, and the mythology we build around these forces to make sense of not the forces, but ourselves in the face of these forces. That’s the angle that’s always drawn me to Werner Herzog anyway. All his films, fiction or documentary, show man’s struggle to reconcile our crisis of meaning with the clearly superior forces at work around us, whether they be volcanoes or wild beasts or other men. They’re about our relationships with everything around us and our perverse compulsion to set ourselves apart and above everything.

Volcanoes though. I don’t know anyone who isn’t fascinated by a volcano. There is no greater metaphor for the fear of the world itself coming apart at the seams, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s so beyond our comprehension that this could happen that they take on a magical, mythical quality. What more clear sign is there in the world that our very existence here is tenuous?

I’m going to have to revisit this film on a larger screen. My wee MacBook doesn’t do the justice to the cinematography. The lava flows are hypnotic and terrifying. Heat emanates from the screen. This is definitely a big screen production so I’ll have to keep an eye out.

I’m not treating this like a film review. It’s not my intent. It’s definitely a recommendation, but it’s about the feelings it evoked for me. It was a reminder that our tenuous balance here on this shaky rock is real. Something about that chaos does make me feel more at peace. Less pressure to be a god, perhaps. I hope anyone who reads this understands statement as humor, but the film did make me feel peaceful.

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