Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016)
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Stroszek (1977)
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)

Film Studies

“Lessons of Darkness”: Werner Herzog’s Absurdist Studies in the Human Condition

Werner Herzog: In Search of Ecstatic Truth
4 Wednesdays, May 1 to May 22, 2024, 6:30 to 9:30 pm  
Instructor: Paul Wright, Ph.D., Main Line Classical Academy

Weaned on a rejection of Germany’s troubled wartime past and bedeviled by Germany’s partition in the Cold War, the iconoclastic filmmakers of the “New German Cinema” helped usher in a period of intense cultural renewal. Amid this cohort, Werner Herzog charted his own unique path through a series of often absurdist films that continue to resonate today.

Our course will begin with Herzog’s anarchic early feature, Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970). A study in social rebellion in the face of institutionalized conformity, the tale builds on older films like Tod Browning’s Freaks, blending an exploitation sensibility with social critique. We then turn to one of the director’s collaborations with mercurial actor Klaus Kinski in Herzog’s surreal take on Spanish colonialism, Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). We’ll journey to Herzog’s funhouse version of modern America in Stroszek (1977), as strange a “road picture” as one will encounter, following a Berlin street performer in search of new horizons in the United States. We’ll close with Herzog’s 2016 documentary, Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. A thoughtful confrontation with the effects of the internet, artificial intelligence, and robotics on consciousness, Herzog’s film anticipates our current anxieties over emerging technologies that portend a redefinition of our own humanity.  

Each of these films reminds us that, from his earliest efforts to his most recent, Herzog has explored unsettling paradoxes in the very project of being human, especially when we presume to be in control of our world, our identity, and our destiny. 

Course Information

$100 for members, $140 for non-members


  • Wednesday, May 1 · 6:30 pm
  • Wednesday, May 8 · 6:30 pm
  • Wednesday, May 15 · 6:30 pm
  • Wednesday, May 22 · 6:30 pm