How did they get up there? I am not sure how. I still am not sure how. In 1977, for German television, Werner Herzog and his erstwhile camera crew managed to get onto the island of Guadalope. This trip became interesting for Herzog when he heard reports that a volcano there was about to erupt. The island has been evacuated by the time Herzog shows up – one would surmise that law enforcement was prominently involved in getting people out of there. It seems like how Herzog and his crew got there would be compelling – a film in its own right. However, leaving those questions aside, we are left with La Soufriere, Herzog’s extraordinary doc short of what IS there.
So, what is there? Nothing. Well, virtually nothing – as far as human goes. It’s eerie, as Herzog’s camera explores – the town has been completely abandoned. At that point, we are looking at an actual ghost town – an apolcalpytic from where a George Miller-esque post-apocalyptic vision might have emerged or somesuch. We see a traffic light, as it is dangling over an intersection where there are no cars – in broad daylight which of course adds to eerieness. Herzog looks around and what has been left. He checks out the caldera with the steam and sulphur are almost palpable through the film. We see an eerie shot of what was spaghetti apparently burned to a crisp – actually it looked like noodles with black bean sauce, but never mind. We get the sense of nature’s force – and you realize with a start how Herzog was risking he and his crew’s lives by doing this.
If he is risking his life, what about others? Indeed when I say there is virtually nothing left in terms of people – that does not mean that EVERYBODY left. In particular, Herzog hears of a man who stayed. In fact, Herzog finds more than one – somebody who wants to save animals for instance. But the one who etches himself in the memory is a man who just feels resolved that this is his place, and is at peace with the volcano taking him. He discusses his life, how he is satisfied and is ready to face whatever. He has had children, they will be fine. One wonders how he is fighting the instinct of self preservation (and if he will be so brave when the lava comes) – but the poignancy is there. Of course, Herzog IS narrating this – so take it for what you will. And finally, the film has its ironic ending … which Herzog notes with great bemusement.