Werner Herzog, Virtual Reality and Telling Stories

I’d say that Werner Herzog is one of the most creative thinkers alive today, and I love to hear his considered opinions on pretty much any subject. For example, chickens. True to form, this interview on the subject of virtual reality is fascinating.

I am convinced that this is not going to be an extension of cinema or 3-D cinema or video games. It is something new, different, and not experienced yet.

Finding a new storytelling technique will be integral to the success of VR. Pixar’s Ed Catmull also spoke about this recently:

It’s not storytelling. The fact that you’ve changed the technology, and people are excited about it, doesn’t change the underlying difficulty of the compelling narrative story. Just like books aren’t the same things as movies.

But Herzog’s real insight comes when he talks about where we are with VR today:

Normally, in the history of culture, we have new stories and narrations and then we start to develop a tool. Or we have visions of wondrous new architecture—like, let’s say, the museum in Bilbao, or the opera house in Sydney—and technology makes it possible to fulfill these dreams. So you have the content first, and then the technology follows suit. In this case, we do have a technology, but we don’t have any clear idea how to fill it with content.

There’s also a classic piece of Herzogian dialog:

The Prussian war theoretician Clausewitz, in Napoleonic times, famously said, “Sometimes war dreams of itself.” Does virtual reality dream of itself? Do we dream or express and articulate our dreams in virtual reality?

The interview is worth reading in it’s entirety, and leaves me really keen to see his next film, Lo and Behold, where he considers the internet.


Also published on Medium.