© 2020 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Fireball' Is A Result Of Werner Herzog's Fascination With Meteorites

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When's the last time you felt awe, that overwhelming sense of wonder that can fill you with joy and fear, even reverence, for something you can never fully understand? Film director Werner Herzog founded in meteorites, specifically the ones that have crashed into our planet, changing the landscape and the people. His new documentary is called "Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS")

WERNER HERZOG: Visitors from other worlds, from the dark of the universe, have come and untold numbers are still on their way.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in non-English language).

HERZOG: If something big is going to happen, it will illuminate the sky even in daylight. But that may be millions of years away.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: That, of course, is the voice of Werner Herzog. He directed "Fireball," along with volcano expert Clive Oppenheimer. The film shows us meteorites up close, these colorful, alien objects formed billions of years ago. But honestly, the enthusiasm of the scientists, the hobbyists and historians is equally compelling. Hearing and seeing Werner Herzog captured that enthusiasm in this film is its own joy. We called him on the phone to talk more.

HERZOG: Of course, meteorites have done big things to our planet, I mean, including wiping out the dinosaurs, including, let's say, tribal people on some islands between Australia and New Guinea who believe that the souls of the departed ride on shooting stars to the netherworld.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS")

HERZOG: Each one of these stones from darker worlds out there has its own story. Throughout history, meteorites have captivated human imagination.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: You and Clive take us on this tour around the world to sites that have experienced a meteorite crash, and you meet scientists and amateur enthusiasts whose entire lives revolve around meteorites.

HERZOG: Yes.

MARTIN: I am thinking in particular the scene in Antarctica. This research team discovers this large meteorite in the ice, and the lead researcher falls to the ground overwhelmed with joy. Would you mind explaining the context and what that moment was like?

HERZOG: Well, it was footage that Koreans had shot a few years earlier. And one of the scientists flying around in a helicopter spotted a huge slab of rock that had come down from outer space. It's a very rare specimen. And he jumps out from the helicopter. And he's so overwhelmed with joy, you cannot believe it. And I thought, a moment like this must be in the film.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Yelling, unintelligible).

HERZOG: He had found a large meteorite, and we fell in love with him seeing his ecstasy of discovery. This is science at its best.

MARTIN: You serve as the narrator in this. You are most of the time, except for a couple of cameos, behind the camera.

HERZOG: Yes.

MARTIN: But we hear your excitement, too, you know. I mean, you are so clearly moved by these moments.

HERZOG: Well, I think science and filmmaking are very close in one respect. It has to do with discovery, and it has to do with a sense of awe. If I didn't have a sense of awe in every single of my films, I wouldn't work in this profession. And the same thing you find among scientists. They have exactly this incredible excitement. And filmmaking and science have something very, very close.

MARTIN: What did making this film do for you?

HERZOG: Well, I think it gives us a deep insight into our space, our place in the universe. We are just a tiny speck. And millions and millions of meteorites have come down, and many more millions are en route towards us. And maybe even life was transported to our planet through meteorites. We know that meteorites in some cases carried amino acids, the building blocks of life. So it gives us a feeling for the universe itself. Where are we? Where are we standing? What's coming at us? What is our future?

MARTIN: Werner Herzog - his newest film is called "Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds." Thank you so much for talking with us.

HERZOG: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHANN JOHANNSSON'S "MANDY LOVE THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.