Incident at Loch Ness

Reviewed By Dr Nick
Posted 08/30/04 03:30:08

4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2004: A mockumentary about Werner Herzog making a film about the infamous Scottish Loch Ness monster, this is a very funny film. Herzog enjoys making fun of the myth that surrounds him and his films and it really shows in his performance. Archive footage from Herzogís own films adds authenticity to the film.

Ever since I heard that this film was being made, Iíve been dying to see the finished result. As ususual when Herzog makes a film, the rumours start flying in the newspapers. Here in Scotland, we heard reports that Herzog wasn't just going to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster, he was going to capture it, take it to America and charge tourists $50 per ticket to come and see it. Obviously not true, it's the sort of stories that has powered his status as an eccentric filmmaker. Knowing a little about the man, the myth and the legend that is Werner Herzog certainly helps when watching the film, as there are many references to his films. But, even if you are a newcomer to Herzogís work, this is still a very enjoyable film.

The film follows Herzog as he teams up with Hollywood producer Zak Penn to make a documentary about the legend behind the famous Loch Ness monster. At the same time, a documentary film crew is making a documentary about Herzog himself, and they are invited along to Scotland. While Herzog is intent on making a serious film, more about the legend than about the monster itself, Penn has a different film in mind. Unknown to Herzog he has hired various actors to play the parts of the scientists required for the expedition, including a Playboy model for the role of sonar operator. When Herzog finds out about Pennís intention to fake most of the film to increase its mass appeal, Herzog threatens to quit the project. However, before he has the chance to leave, things start to go horribly wrong. Not only does the weather get increasingly bad. There also seems to be something in the water.

This is a great film about what happens when two people with completely different creative minds come together. Zak Penn, Hollywood screenwriter and producer, wants monsters, big-breasted scientists and big well-lit shots of epic proportions. He has even bought custom-made jumpsuits for everyone to wear, to make the expedition look more "authentic". Herzog on the other hand, used to hand-held cameras and available light, is more interested in the people keeping the myth alive and has no interest in dressing the film up for the audience. Itís this contrast between the two that makes the film so entertaining. While Herzog likes to solve problems creatively, Penn prefers the simple route of just paying more money to make the problems go away.

Itís great to see that Herzog is willing to make fun of himself and that he doesnít take himself too seriously. Already having proved himself a good actor in Harmony Korineís Julien Donkey-Boy, he does surprisingly well at the difficult task of playing himself. By using archive footage from Herzogís own films, as well as interviewing all the people involved about their experiences of the expedition, the film maintains its stance that this is a real documentary all the way through.

Herzogís own films often blurs the borders between fact and fiction and here, when heís stuck somewhere in between, he seems to be enjoying himself tremendously. What he really believes when it comes to the Loch Ness monster we may never know.

An unusual film about and starring an extraordinary man, [i] Incident At Loch Ness [/i] is great fun from its realistic start to its chaotic finish.

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