Lessons of Darkness
Director: Werner Herzog
France/UK/Germany / 1992 / 54 min
In German, English, and Arabic with English subtitles
“The word ‘documentary’ should be handled with care because we seem to have a very precise definition of what the word means,” Herzog once said. And like Fata Morgana nearly 20 years earlier, Lessons of Darkness sees Herzog engage in a uniquely different kind of doc filmmaking, focused primarily on capturing stunning almost sci-fi-like terrain, this time the expansive deserts of Kuwait, where its oil wells burned for several months at the close of the Persian Gulf War. A stunningly gorgeous, almost voiceless piece of work, Lessons of Darkness lets viewers just take in scenes of destruction, and its aftermath, without force-feeding any grand political statements or history lessons. Yet the overwhelming beauty of its imagery caused some audiences to feel that the film aestheticized the horrors of war—to which Herzog simply responded, “You’re all wrong!” Restoration courtesy of Shout! Factory and the American Genre Film Archive.