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- Centuries from now our great-great-great-grandchildren will look back at us with amazement at how we could allow such a precious achievement of human culture as the telling of a story to be shattered into smithereens by commercials, the same amazement we feel today when we look at our ancestors for whom slavery, capital punishment, burning of witches, and the inquisition were acceptable everyday events.
- For such an advanced civilization as ours to be without images that are adequate to it is as serious a defect as being without memory.
- I cannot work fast enough. I cannot cope fast enough, really. And just releasing a film is hard.
- I do not want to go into general rules of what a filmmaker should do and how he should approach his work... I am not Moses on the mountain who proclaims the rules of procedure and what is sin and what is virtue.
- I don't spend sleepless nights over getting very bad reviews.
- I have the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out, they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution. When I look at the postcards in tourist shops and the images and advertisements that surround us in magazines, or I turn on the television, or if I walk into a travel agency and see those huge posters with that same tedious and rickety image of the Grand Canyon on them, I truly feel there is something dangerous emerging here. The biggest danger, in my opinion, is television because to a certain degree it ruins our vision and makes us very sad and lonesome. Our grandchildren will blame us for not having tossed hand-grenades into TV stations because of commercials. Television kills our imagination and what we end up with are worn out images because of the inability of too many people to seek out fresh ones.
- I invite any sort of myths because I like the stooges and doppelgangers and doubles out there. I feel protected behind all these things. Let them blossom! I do not plant them, I do not throw out the seeds. I advise you to read Herzog on Herzog because there you see a few clarifications.
- I know whenever it comes to be really dysfunctional and vile and base and hostile on screen— I'm good at that!
- I make films to rid myself of pain, like ridding yourself of a nightmare.
- I see planets that don't exist and landscapes that have only been dreamed.
- I'm making films for an audience out there and a very tiny fraction of them are would-be filmmakers. But let's speak of them—the would-be filmmakers—the tiny fraction. I've witnessed many times when I've showed films and was present at a screening that exactly those people feel very much encouraged by what I'm doing.
- I'm old-fashioned; I'm a man of celluloid. I think it still has a depth and a precision that you do not have in the digital domain, and the digital domain has some disadvantages. When you shoot something and record it with a digital camera, you have an instant access to it—you don't have to wait for the dailies.
- If I had to climb into hell and wrestle the devil himself for one of my films, I would do it.
- It is a place where nature is unfinished yet...a place where God, if he exists, has created in anger...Even the stars up in the sky look a mess.
- Expressing anger at the Amazon rainforest for the difficulties involved in filming Fitzcarraldo.
- Let's put it this way: art house theaters are vanishing. They have almost disappeared completely, and that means there's a shift in what audiences want to see. And they have to be aware of that and be realistic. It's as simple as that.
- Strangely enough, I've always believed that my stories were mainstream stories; the films are narrated in a way that you never have a boring moment.
- Stupidity is the devil. Look in the eye of a chicken and you'll know. It's the most horrifying, cannibalistic, and nightmarish creature in this world.
- Technology has a great advantage in that we are capable of creating dinosaurs and show them on the screen even though they are extinct 65 million years. All of a sudden, we have a fantastic tool that is as good as dreams are.
- There are certainly laws and elements that make a film more accessible to mainstream audiences. If you've got Tom Cruise as a strongman, I'm sure it would have larger audiences, but it wouldn't have the same substance.
- Very often, footage that you have shot develops its own dynamic, its own life, that is totally unexpected, and moves away from your original intentions. And you have to acknowledge, yes, there is a child growing and developing and moving in a direction that isn't expected—accept it as it is and let it develop its own life.
- We are surrounded by worn-out images, and we deserve new ones.
- You should look straight at a film; that's the only way to see one. Film is not the art of scholars but of illiterates.
- You know, I'm interested in an aesthetic truth. Ken, I think, is interested in an emotional truth. And you're interested in a physical truth. You even put your big belly into the frame.
On Klaus Kinski
- Actually his ideas about nature were rather insipid. Mosquitoes were not allowed in his jungle, nor was rain.
- He was a pestilence every day... but who cares? I mean, what remains is the film. ... There has never been a man in cinema who had such a presence, such a ferocious intensity on the screen.
- I needed Kinski for a few more shots, so I turned them down. I have always regretted that I lost that opportunity.
- On declining an offer by local Indians to kill Kinski for him, during the making of Fitzcarraldo.
- It was worthwhile for what you see on the screen. Who cares if every grey hair on my head I call 'Kinski'?
- Kinski walked off, packed all his things and was absolutely serious about quitting and leaving at once— he'd already broken his contract 40 or 50 times. I went up to him and said, 'You can't do this.' I told him I had a rifle and that he'd only make it as far as the first bend before he had eight bullets in his head— the ninth one would be for me.
- [Biophilia is] a very good term, and I would apply it rather to the tree huggers, which is one of the biggest embarrassments in our civilization. It's so deeply embarrassing that if I see a tree hugger, I just pray for the ground to open and a chasm to swallow me.
- I hated school. I hated it so badly that I seriously thought I should burn it down at night, which I never did, regrettably.
- During an Afternoon with Werner Herzog at the University of South Florida.
- The difference between me and Don Quixote is, I deliver.
- In response to audience questions at McNally Jackson, June 26, 2009.
- The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot.