A portrait of 56-year-old Fini Straubinger, who has been blind and deaf since she was young. Moving and intense, Land of Silence and Darkness is widely considered one of Werner Herzog’s greatest documentaries.
“If a world war were to break out now, I wouldn’t even notice.” Focusing on the life of a woman who lost both her sight and her hearing, this is one of Werner Herzog’s most masterful docs, an exploration of human frailty and resilience that takes documentary form to deeply poetic heights.
This is Herzog at his least manipulative as a documentary filmmaker and as a result maybe his most affecting work. What starts out as the portrait of one woman overcoming incredible odds becomes more and more a parable on the human longing for connection and affection. The last scene is heart breaking and upsetting but also beautiful in a way. The same goes for the movie as a whole.
DCP. Arguably, Herzog looks for the signs of what is set in the title: silence, in a film where so much is spoken so that could be translated into one language of silence; and darkness, in a movie where we look so much at who does not look at us and not see us and so much senses around to find a vision. The shown print, with much less matter and body than pellicle, is in deep contradiction with this film's subject.
Beautiful, heavy doc by Herzog that, as others have noted, will make you happy for all you have. Its choice of subject—a high-functioning deaf-blind woman who serves, in effect, as an ambassador for a community largely cut off from communication—moves the film from exploitation to advocacy. This is an ode to the sanctity of human consciousness in all forms. Herzog would make better docs, but this is hard to forget.