Diving in the Sanctuary. Scientific knowledge and the representation of scientists in Werner Herzog’s films

Francesco Cattaneo


The overwhelming presence of scientists is one of the most striking feature of Herzog’s recent “documentaries”. This would be all but normal, were we talking about plain documentaries. However, as Herzog has repeatedly pointed out, there is no difference, in the filmmaker’s body of work, between fiction films and documentaries. What is at stake is, according to Herzog, “ecstatic truth”. From this point of view, the way in which scientists are portrayed is particularly relevant. Herzog is deeply interested in their emotions, in their life-experience, in their aims and dreams; in other words, in what lays at the foundation and drives their scientific work. In Herzog’s films science is no abstract knowledge, it is always embodied, it is depicted as something genuinely human, connected to the ability of seeing and feeling imaginatively.


Ecstatic truth; Embodiment; Scientific knowledge

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