Walking to Werner


Inspired by the winter 1974 march that Werner Herzog made from Munich to Paris to see ailing film critic Lotte Eisner, Linas Phillips sets out on a pilgrimage of his own to visit his hero—1,200 miles from Seattle to Los Angeles! Phillips’s trip begins as an attention-grabbing show of devotion but transforms into a many-sided experiment in empathy. Tramping down the coast, unsure if Herzog will be waiting for him in Los Angeles, Phillips not only hears the same call of the wild that gripped Aguirre and Timothy Treadwell, he lovingly bears witness to random folk whose heart-tugging experiences put life into eye-opening perspective for both him and the audience. Phillips uses Herzog’s old DVD commentaries to conflate his own mission with those of his German hero’s larger-than-life madmen, but the Herzogian lunacy that courses through Phillips’s veins is already apparent enough, so the correlation feels gratuitous. Nonetheless, this long-haired blond—often and very funnily confused for a girl—arrives at a thorny place of Zen, on the same wavelength with a remorseful killer, a cheerful cripple, and a drug addict with AIDS. His quest for truth is spiritual, an example of striving through suffering, and it inspires the type of euphoria that may lead someone to one day walk to Linas.