Lessons of Darkness and La Soufriere | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Lessons of Darkness and La Soufriere 

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Werner Herzog is a connoisseur of exotic landscapes who brandishes a marvelous disgust with natural and supernatural disasters. In the 52-minute Lessons of Darkness, broadcast not long ago on the Discovery Channel, he covers post-gulf-war Kuwait, mostly from the vantage point of a reconnaissance helicopter: his cameras soar over vistas of twisted, rusting war debris and desert oil fields where pillars of flame attain biblical proportions while firefighting crews gesture at him and inexplicably reignite the very infernos they have extinguished. (He also inspects a display of torture tools and attempts to interview two Kuwaitis struck dumb by their trauma.) Though entranced by the spectacle of the crisis, Herzog explains nothing. Instead, he concocts authentic-sounding quotations--even falsely attributing one of them to Blaise Pascal--and intersperses them throughout. Grieg, Mahler, Schubert, Verdi, and Wagner fill the sound track. Showing with it is La Soufriere, the director's daredevil report (also with classical sound track) on a predicted volcanic eruption on Guadeloupe that never happened; Herzog raced to the evacuated French West Indies island in August 1976 to interview the one resident who stayed behind. Both films recall Land Without Bread, the 1932 classic by that surrealist tourist, Luis Bunuel. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, February 18 and 19, 7:00 and 9:00; Sunday, February 20, 5:30 and 7:30; and Monday through Thursday, February 21 through 24, 7:00 and 9:00; 281-4114.

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