Fata Morgana (1971)

A semi-documentary film by Werner Herzog comprised of footage shot in North Africa. Anchor Bay USA R0 boxset + DVD release.

The Film

Fata Morgana is a visual/audio film without narrative. Werner Herzog travelled to Africa in the late 1960s with a plan for a semi-science fiction film, but on arrival there, the script was ditched in favour of a more free-form style of images which he continued to shoot while filming his subsequent films Flying Doctors of Africa (1969) and Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970).

The film includes footage of mirages and lonely desert scenes, abandoned remains of civilisation and some shots of a mix of very eccentric characters in desert towns. It is presented in three parts, Creation, Paradise and The Golden Age, and set to texts from the Mayan book of creation (the Popul Vuh) and some words written by Herzog himself as well as a mix of classical music and songs.

There is ultimately no purpose to the film - it is a mix of images and sounds that seems to exist somewhere between the pure nature of the art-house critic's favourite Koyaanisqatsi (1983) and the exploitative focus on the bizarre human activities of Mondo Cane (1962) and its sequels. Fata Morgana forms part of a visually beautiful trilogy with Herzog's hellish visions of Lessons of Darkness (1992) and the space-bound Wild Blue Yonder (2005). Fata Morgana is probably the most surreal and absurd of the films and it is certainly not a film for everyone - its dreamlike nature makes for an incredible sleeping pill, although the way in which it was shot means you might not realise if you have fallen asleep. Not recommended to everyone, but if you enjoy films of this type it is certainly worth experiencing.

In Brief

Directed by anyone interesting? Werner Herzog - one of European cinema's best directors with a powerful artistic vision in all his films.
Any violence/gore? None
Any sex? None
Who is it for?
A surreal audio/visual experience, not for everyone but recommended to those who enjoy these films.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colour.
The print quality is good with mild grain and some print damage.
Audio German and English stereo. Both sound good and work equally well.
Subtitles English - translates the German narration and the dialogue of the interview subjects
English 2 - translation of the interview subjects only (put this on when listening to the English soundtrack)
AvailabilityAvailable in the Werner Herzog collection boxset, and in a seperately released 2-disc set with Lessons of Darkness.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with Werner Herzog, Norman Hill and Crispin Glover. Very interesting.
  • Production Notes
  • Werner Herzog biography
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Anchor Bay UK DVD - no English audio.
Cuts? None known. German language print.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 23rd August 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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