What would TIFF be without a documentary from Werner Herzog (and in this case, Clive Oppenheimer)? Luckily, the man’s output is such that I may never have to know.
Part of why his documentaries are so compelling is that he seems genuinely passionate and fascinated by his subjects. His films are an indulgence of his curiosities, he’s scratching his own itch, but he generous to take us along with him, unearthing the coolest little-known facts and seeking out experts buried deeply in their fields, often at the ends of the earth. In Fireball: Visitors From Darker Places, Herzog has become obsessed with meteors and comets. Indeed, for as long as humans have been alive, we have observed these wonders and searched for their meaning. They have influenced ancient religions and global landscapes, cultures and philosophies, even the life and death of dominant species.
Comets and meteors are natural beauties, the origin of dreams, and a mostly unseen threat that stalks our skies and could easily wipe us out, defenseless as we are.
Who but Herzog could so poetically refer to dust as the “currency of the cosmos.” If nothing else, his enthusiasm sparks our own imaginations, and space of course is a near infinite supply of awe and mystery and possibility.
While Herzog and Oppenheimer mine plenty of zest in this most recent documentary (their third collaboration, after Into the Inferno and Encounters at the End of the World), they lack in structure and narrative. Their approach is more pinball, racing from one area of interest to another, seemingly as it occurs to them, assembled rather loosely. If you’re looking for a more academic approach perhaps this is not for you, but it will slake your inquisitiveness, arm you with some impressive conversation starters, and be the flint to your fascination.