Mehdi Parsa: Herzog, Deleuze, and Constructing Reality


Werner Herzog made both documentary and fictional films, but as he remarked in several interviews, his documentaries are completely fictional and his fictional films are documentary. Herzog in both types of his films constructs reality for filming. They are true stories, but here truth is not something to discover. We can say, he transforms the imagination into the reality. Herzog follows his imagination, but making movie out of the imagination means realizing the imagination. The film maker is not a passive sensor before the reality, but he makes the reality.

We can find this attitude toward reality also in the thought of Gilles Deleuze. His question is about the genesis of reality, not its essence. For him, reality is not something to discover, to represent, but a becoming which permeates the investigator. So, imagination is not on the other side of reality. It is on its surface. Reality becomes (or grows), with the help of imagination on its surface. Without imagination, reality is something still and dead, and so is an illusion. For Deleuze, reality is life and event.

This is exactly that which governs the relation between imagination and reality in Herzog’s films. He is the film maker of life, but for him, like for Deleuze, life is not limited to human life. In my talk, I will try to analyze some of his films to describe some concepts in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, concepts like »virtual« and »actual«, and »pure becoming«.