Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1974)

Early Herzogian study of obsession is a poetic look at Walter Steiner, a sculptor who became famous as a ski-jumper. The obsession comes in when Steiner admits that he tends to jump too far and, indeed, has to keep himself from going off at full strength lest he overshoot the landing ramp and kill himself -- what we have here is a portrait of a man who knows his passion is possibly fatal but keeps at it anyway for the seconds of rapture he feels while sailing through the air. (Great ecstasy, indeed.) For one hot minute, I was afraid that this was going to come off like a 45-minute dissection of the Agony of Defeat guy; how silly of me to doubt Werner Herzog, who lets the stirring image of men sailing through the air with preposterous wooden planks strapped to their feet tell much of the story.

Grade: B+


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