Review: ‘Walking to Werner’

An impressionable neophyte filmmaker emulates his personal hero by embarking on a Quixotic quest in exasperating docu "Walking to Werner." The high-strung antics of Linas Phillips, who films his hike from Seattle to Los Angeles to meet Werner Herzog, may strike some as a noble spiritual undertaking, but others will find it an exercise in indulgent self-absorption.

An impressionable neophyte filmmaker emulates his personal hero by embarking on a Quixotic quest in exasperating docu “Walking to Werner.” The high-strung antics of Linas Phillips, who films his hike from Seattle to Los Angeles to meet Werner Herzog, may strike some as a noble spiritual undertaking, but others will find it an exercise in indulgent self-absorption. High-profile fest dates may lead to tube sales, but pic stands to get more air hiking overseas than strolling domestically.

Herzog cultists will recall that in 1974, the helmer trekked from Munich to Paris in the dead of winter to be at the bedside of sick friend and film critic Lotte Eisner.

For reasons that elude precise articulation, Phillips decides to do a similar thing. “I don’t want to stalk him,” he says, sounding just like a stalker. “If I walk to him, he’s gotta meet me, right?”

Well, not necessarily. Reached by phone early in the journey, Herzog seems curious but standoffish. Undeterred, Phillips avows, “If I had learned anything from his films, it was not to give up.”

And so he walks, meeting a series of emotionally and/or physically scarred people along the way. It doesn’t help aud empathy that Phillips, alternately petulant and vulnerable, vulgar and introspective, makes Timothy Treadwell, doomed protag of Herzog’s own “Grizzly Man,” look the model of stability.

Tech credits are functional, with crude handheld camerawork necessary but cumulatively annoying. Audio snippets from Herzog DVD commentary tracks and clips from “Burden of Dreams” are woven through.

Justin Hubbard’s lovely score seems to have wandered in from another film, and that’s producer Dayna Hanson warbling the Velvet Underground tune “I’ll Be Your Mirror” near the fade. Herzog, who in midfilm had advised Phillips not to continue the trek, weighs in at journey’s end: “I bow my head in your direction.”

Walking to Werner

Production

A Linas Films production. Produced by Dayna Hanson. Directed, edited by Linas Phillips.

Crew

Camera (color, DV cam), Phillips, Benjamin Kasulke; music, Justin Hubbard; sound, Scott Colburn. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Australia, June 13, 2006. (In SilverDocs Film Festival, Silver Spring, Md. Also in Seattle, Edinburgh film festivals.) Running time: 94 MIN.
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