Werner Herzog is a prolific filmmaker, known chiefly for his narrated feature-length documentaries including Encounters at the End of the World, Grizzly Man, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. He’s also cultivated… a bit of a reputation, for his cerebral and at-times morbid observations on life, identity, and memory. This is a man who went to Antarctica declaring he wasn’t going to film any penguins, and when he found one, it was in the midst of running off to kill itself.
He has a new documentary coming out in a matter of weeks, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. You can view the trailer below! Herzog, who professes not to own a cell phone (except a burner for emergencies) and didn’t know what movies were until he was 11 years old, is perhaps the ideal director for a film on the internet and how it’s impacted humanity in the last few decades.
As it so happens, a colleague of mine from film school, Emily Yoshida, interviewed Herzog recently for The Verge. Because Emily is like any of us, she couldn’t resist asking him for his thoughts on the current mobile game sensation sweeping the planet:
Do you know about Pokémon Go?
I don’t know what Pokémon Go is and what all these things are…
You’re talking to somebody who made his first phone call at age 17. You’re talking to someone who doesn’t have a cell phone, for example, for cultural reasons.
Tell me about Pokémon Go. What is happening on Pokémon Go?
It’s basically the first mainstream augmented reality program. It’s a game where the entire world is mapped and you walk around with the GPS on your phone. You walk around in the real world and can catch these little monsters and collect them. And everybody is playing it.
Does it tell you you’re here at San Vicente, close to Sunset Boulevard?
Yeah, it’s basically like a Google map.
But what does pokémon do at this corner here?
You might be able to catch some. It’s all completely virtual. It’s very simple, but it’s also an overlay of physically based information that now exists on top of the real world.
When two persons in search of a pokémon clash at the corner of Sunset in San Vicente is there violence? Is there murder?
They do fight, virtually.
Physically, do they fight?
Do they bite each other’s hands? Do they punch each other?
After being informed that physical violence doesn’t usually result from playing Pokemon Go, Herzog seemed to indicate he’d need to play it for himself to grasp the concept, not that he was inclined to.
You’d have to give me a cell phone, which I’m not going to use anyway, and I have no clue what’s going on there, but I don’t need to play the game.
There’s plenty more besides talk of AR games in the full interview, in which Herzog discusses the film courses he teaches, the present wave of interest in virtual reality as a vehicle for empathy, and a bit more about Lo and Behold, which releases into theaters on August 19th.
(h/t The Verge.)
Top image: Werner Herzog standing amidst cosplayers outside San Diego Comic Con in 2011, photo originating from Awards Daily.