The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner

In his distinctively present yet unobtrusive style, Herzog examines the mind of a ski-flyer in shock at his sudden record-breaking success.

The film has a deceptively small scope, spanning only a few days and running under an hour. However, within this time we are shown Steiner’s conflicting emotions. Although the main point of tension is only a minor injury, Herzog extends this to show how it could have ended Steiner’s career, had he not overcome the fear to jump again.

In contrast to this, the slow-motion footage of Steiner flying gives a grandiose sense of scale. This reminds the viewer of the immensity and unnatural essence of the sport, revealing the intense exhilaration, but also fear, of Steiner’s experience.

By concluding with Steiner’s story about the raven, Herzog links the conflicts of the film to the wider stories of Steiner’s life. In Herzog on Herzog, he explains the persistence required to get Steiner to open up about this very personal experience. Herzog later relates this persistence to his physical connection to the creative process in his theory that ‘Filmmaking is athletics over aesthetics’.

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