Signs of Life

Directed by Werner Herzog

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Slightly unhinged director crafts intense, slow-moving war story

The pace of Werner Herzog’s first film Signs of Life is so slow that Herzog himself now seems unnerved by it. “It’s the pace of life,” he sighs on the DVD’s clunky audio commentary. Tasked with defending an ammunition dump they know will never be attacked, wounded German soldiers wait out the end of the Second World War on a remote, sun-drenched Greek island. As boredom sets in, one of the soldiers snaps, taking control of the fortress and terrifying nearby villagers with a nightly display of ?reworks.

The black and white ?lm stock and the sparseness of the visual landscape give the movie the feel of an Ernest Hemingway novel. Like Hemingway, Herzog is a troubled soul who reveals his true nature in the actions of his protagonists. As such, Signs of Life is a quiet, but bold declaration of intent from an artist destined to become one of the primordial figures in modern German cinema.

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