Combustible Celluloid
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With: Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer
Written by: Werner Herzog
Directed by: Werner Herzog
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 104
Date: 10/28/2016

Into the Inferno (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sought Lava

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

What I love about Werner Herzog's films is that they have a genuine sense of curiosity. They are open to veer off track, to forget the original plan. They wander wherever the story takes them, following the most interesting thread. Herzog's newest documentary Into the Inferno (2016) — a Netflix original — began more or less on the heels of his Oscar-nominated doc Encounters at the End of the World (2007), on which he met volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer. Now he meets up with Dr. Oppenheimer again for a film that is, ostensibly, about volcanos. But, of course, it detours into several other fascinating ideas.

Herzog's film travels all over the world, to Vanuatu, Indonesia, Iceland, and Ethiopia, to gaze at some of the planet's most awesome active volcanos. Not surprisingly, the film supplies some amazingly beautiful footage of roiling magma and rolling lava. In Ethiopia, Oppenheimer suddenly joins UC Berkeley professor Tim White on an archeological dig to find the 10,000 year-old human bones. Then, the crew is invited to film inside North Korea, capturing some truly beautiful, and truly grim, images. In the end, Into the Inferno (not to be confused with Herzog's 2011 death-row documentary Into the Abyss) is fascinated by the impermanent nature of our world, and is perhaps a strong reminder to appreciate what we have while we have it.

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