“Into the Inferno”: Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer visit volcanoes around the world, with a detailed look at North Korea

Name: Into the Inferno
Director, writer:  Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer
Released:  2016/11
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play, 2016/12/23
Length:  107
Rating:  PG
Companies:  Netflix Red Envelope
Link:  official site


Into the Inferno” is a moving documentary by Werner Herzog, distributed by Netflix, but grand enough to be an Imax film for the Smithsonian.  There are landscapes in this film that truly look alien.

The documentary is based on the book “Eruptions that Shook the World” by Cambridge University volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, who travels around the world narrating his experiences.

The film starts on Tanna Island of Vanuatu, east of Australia, exploring a tribe with a history of cannibalism, as it shows us the bowels of a volcano, before it moves on to Sumatra, Indonesia and Mt. Erebus, Antarctica.  But soon Oppenheimer settles down and stays a while in some places, especially in Ethiopia in a hot plain below sea level, in a tribal area, and actually helps look for fossils. But the high point of the film is his trip to North Korea, and Paektu Mountain,  Herzog insists that filmmakers can only show what the North Korean communist dictatorship wants you to see, but he explains the mythology that the ruling cult family attributes to the volcano.  He also shows some daily life in the Pyongyang subway, where there is no public Internet, no newsstands, no commercial advertising, only statist propaganda, yet everything is clean, showy and orderly.

Oppenheimer then visits Iceland, showing a coastal village buried by ash in in 1973 and impressive volcanic landscapes greening up, before finally returning to Tanna.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Chnagbai, DPRK, by Mates Il, ubder CCSA 3.0.

(Posted: Friday, December 23, 2016 at 12:45 PM EST)