Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer
Watch Into the Inferno online in the UK: Netflix
Werner Herzog’s newest documentary scours the globe alongside Dr. Clive Oppenheimer – a volcanologist and colleague/friend – exploring the relationship between man and volcano, taking him through nearly 40 years of his own fascination with the destructive giants.
As you may expect, Into the Inferno is largely founded upon truly spectacular images of active volcanos, regularly accompanied by Herzog’s formal, thoughtful voice presenting impossible-to-grasp facts and figures regarding the scale of devastation they have caused. Herzog’s poetically cautionary accent discussing fiery ruin would certainly be a fine way to spend 87 minutes, but Into the Inferno takes the energy of that pairing and forces it not towards the gigantic lava-driven titans themselves, but at parts of humanity’s supposedly odd reaction to them.
After an introduction to Herzog and Oppenheimer, their connection and interest, we quickly transition to specific locations and the locals’ spiritual beliefs surrounding their volatile habitats. The film introduces a variety of characters – an animated cowboy of an American archaeologist, Indonesian villagers who believe the volcano houses spirits that can communicate with certain members – all the while framing their eye-opening, thought-provoking experiences with the planet’s most explosive natural disasters.
Into the Inferno undertakes the gargantuan task of tracing a strange line between the incomprehensibly large and the incomprehensibly small. Drawing from sources like North Korea, in which a uniquely isolated nation was born and lives in the shadow of a great volcano, and also from a tribe of no more than 20 people, who dedicate their existence to respecting the fiery mountain they exist alongside, the documentary scientifically divines the poetry out of a relationship of science and religion. Herzog even tells stories of lone humans who have faced erupting volcanos for both causes.
It’s a vastly difficult idea to appreciate, sat watching the chaos and faiths work beside, and often in-sync with, one another, but Into the Inferno’s crew beautifully capture the dichotomy of their subject matter. They present a phenomenally stunning view of contrasting worlds influencing one another across the planet. There is no volcano in the world that is not connected to a human belief system, and as Herzog’s philosophical exhibition fades to black, it’s absolutely understandable why.
Into the Inferno is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.