Los Angeles (AP) – Werner Herzog loves strong personalities and extreme worlds. The filmmaker deals with them in his works. Now Herzog has written a book.
With “Dawn of the World”, the globetrotter is drawn to an extraordinary stranger – a Japanese soldier who has been hiding in the jungle of the Philippine island of Lubang for almost 30 years. Until 1974, Hiroo Onoda did not know that Japan had surrendered to the United States and that World War II was long over.
It is not the first time that Herzog has been among the writers. He kept a journal of the adventurous creation of “Fitzcarraldo” (1982) in the Amazon region and then wrote the proofs in the novel “Eroberung des Nutzlosen” (2004). Before that, he had already put on paper his extreme walk from Munich to Paris in the winter of 1974 in the book Vom Gehen im Eis (From Walking in the Ice) (1978).
Yes, Herzog likes extremes. The documentary “In den Tiefen des Infernos” took the German director to the edge of volcanoes, the Oscar-nominated documentary “Encounters at the End of the World” in Antarctica. He shot the eco-thriller “Salt and Fire” in the Bolivian highlands. He brought Nicole Kidman on camera as researcher Gertrude Bell in “Queen of the Desert”. With Klaus Kinski, eccentric star of common films like “Aguirre, Wrath of God” and “Fitzcarraldo”, he shot in the most difficult and dangerous conditions of the South American jungle.
In his latest book, “Dawn of the World”, intelligence officer Onoda, hidden in the jungle, conscientiously leads a sort of private guerrilla warfare. He is wary of leaflets announcing the end of the war. It wasn’t until he was found in 1974 and his former Japanese superior ordered him to surrender that he surrendered. At the time, Onoda still carried his uniform, sword, rifle and ammunition with him.
It is fascinating material for Herzog and the readers. Especially since the filmmaker personally met Onoda in Japan in 1997. “Onoda and I immediately got in touch, we got closer in many conversations because I had worked in the jungle under difficult conditions and I could talk to him about things and ask him questions that no one else had asked him, “Herzog writes in the book.
“Dawn of the World” about the jungle soldier, who died in 2014 at the age of 91, is not a non-fiction book. Herzog, who also enjoys mixing fiction and reality in his films, examines Onoda’s struggle for survival with nature and his own demons in the extremes of the human soul – and the madness of wars. The Hanser Verlag, where the book will appear on August 23, describes it as a “bright and lively dance of the meaning and nonsense of our existence”.
“A lot of the details are correct, a lot of them are not. The author was preoccupied with something else, with something essential, as he thought he recognized when he met the protagonist of this story ”, we say in the opening credits of the book.
On 128 pages, Herzog sums up the essence of Onoda’s decades in the jungle. His own experiences in the jungle may have helped when he vividly described the decay and dampness that breaks everything down. How the soldier’s telescope gets more and more foggy due to the progressive fungal attack, how his uniform crumbles more and more as he stubbornly sticks to his duty of defending the island from the imaginary enemy.
To the reader, it is not clear what Onoda actually said to the author when they met and what Herzog imagines for himself. But it is clear that the uncompromising survivor fascinates the filmmaker. Onoda had him translate a song that the soldier sang over and over again over the years on Lubang for his own encouragement, Herzog writes: “I can sound like a tramp or a beggar. But silent moon, you are witness to the splendor of my soul ”.