Germany | Boliva 2016
Opening December 8, 2016
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Writing credits: Werner Herzog, Tom Bissell
Principal actors: Michael Shannon, Gael Garcia Bernal, Veronica Ferres
Salt and Fire by Werner Herzog, is a dramatic film inspired by a short story written by Tom Bissell. It tells of a United Nations scientific delegation, led by Laura (Ferres), which has been sent to Bolivia to collect data on an ecological disaster that is occurring. If conclusive, the data will expose Matt Riley (Shannon), the CEO of the large corporation responsible for this environmental destruction. Consumed by guilt at what he and his corporation have done by polluting the local landscape, Riley kidnaps Laura and her colleagues and holds them hostage. He then goes on to abandon her, along with two blind boys, into the middle of this infected landscape. Riley’s hope is that Laura will come away with such an intense feeling of rage from this man-made blight that the authorities will prosecute him and he will be found guilty and at long last be made to accept responsibility for the criminal wrongdoings that consume him.
Aside from a potentially interesting story line the film fails to deliver. Yes, we see Herzog’s familiar trademarks: the long, extended landscape shots, screeching cellos and violins in the musical scores and a protagonist who jumps in and out of rage and ultimately shows compassion toward her kidnapper. The film does not have a clear beginning, middle or end. It feels disjointed and you find yourself thinking this is just plain odd. It feels like you are viewing a senior project of a film student who just did not quite understand the assignment. (Abby M.)