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Lessons of Darkness
Directed by Werner Herzog • 1992 • Germany
“The collapse of the stellar universe will occur–like creation–in grandiose splendor,” announces the quote (attributed to Blaise Pascal, but actually invented by the director) that begins Werner Herzog’s terrifyingly beautiful rumination on the ravaged oil fields of post–Gulf War Kuwait. Surveying the scarred, flaming landscapes with the curious detachment of an alien visitor, Herzog gazes into the inferno and finds both otherworldly wonder and philosophical revelations, delivered via his distinctively doomy voiceover. The result is one of the filmmaker’s greatest works, a profound, hauntingly enigmatic reflection on war, catastrophe, and what apocalypse just might look like.