The Whistler Mancation as told by Werner Herzog
- An examination of five men
We next see a man walking out of a grocery store, but not any grocery store. No, one of inestimable hypocrisy as it pretends to be natural and kind to our world, when we can easily see through this veil of lies for what it really presents – an overpriced way for the privileged to salve their souls while they rape the landscape. This man is carrying bottles of beer and a sandwich. He is waiting. The sandwich is supposed to feed his soul, but is that possible? The bottles of beer are meant as a gift for the hospitality that he anticipates, but if he really believes this, then why does he drink most of it himself. We will ask him this question later.
A vehicle pulls up. Four men are in it, one wearing a hat to ward off the chill in the air. We will see him change that hat many times. Why? We will ask him this question later.
One man gets out of the car. The others seem very pleased by this. He climbs into the waiting car with the first man, the remains of his sandwich and the beer. Soon they are all traveling again. North. They have skiing equipment and technical clothing. Do they not realize the futility of trying to tame nature with such apparatus? They are applying a thin crust of technology over a world filled with chaos and murder. Do they not realize that the cold and snow, like the fearsome yeti of my dreams, will tear through that thin crust and leave them exposed and potentially overwhelmed?
They arrive at their destination. They carry their equipment and their alienation and their protective mantle of civilization into their dwelling place. They share the beer from the first man and then bed down in their false sense of security.
The next morning they go about their tedious rituals and consumption of crepes. I have often said that to be a tourist is a sin, while traveling on foot is a virtue. These men are sinners of the worst order. Sandwich and beer man taunts the young lady at the creperie with a comment about the Kentucky Fried Chicken not being open so they are forced to find their sustenance here. Does he think this is funny or does he realize how absurd and rude he is? Hat man has another hat upon his head. The man who caused such relief by switching vehicles also is here. Later we learn that they call him “part man, mostly weasel.” Is this a term of endearment or recognition of man’s basest motives and desires which seem so close to the surface in this person. A fourth man is here. He is quiet and we do not immediately see a reason to be derisive of him. This surely will change. The last man has stayed in their dwelling. Preferring quiet and oatmeal to this forced conviviality of crepes. Do these four not sense their lives slipping away from them as society slowly suffocates them and strips them of their individuality?
They do not.
Now, all five men don their equipment and make their way to the ski hill. Four of them are excellent skiers, but sandwich and beer man appears to have spent too much time with his sandwiches and beer and not enough time attending to his physical needs. Life is not lived in one’s head. Life is lived with one’s thighs. This man needs to do more living.
As we gaze up the mountain and beyond, I see planets that don't exist and landscapes that have only been dreamed. These men, however, are grounded to this landscape. They mechanically climb the mountains and then slide down them. Over and over again. They have moments of grace and they moments of treachery and chaos and destruction, for they are human. They have smiles upon their faces for they have momentarily forgotten that their time on this mortal coil shall surely be ending in a blink of the eye. If they are lucky.
The sandwich and beer man begins slowing down and holding the group up. Why do they tolerate this? Is this the crust of humanity that holds up over the deep sea of swirling chaos that constantly threatens to swallow us all? They eventually make their way to a bar. It is called the Dubliner and it reeks of faux authenticity. The servants appear in short plaid skirts and tall school girl socks. Does this appeal to their basest of all human instincts? To rut around the ground and do it like they do on the Discovery Channel? It does.
They leave. They drink more at their dwelling. They sit in a tub of hot water and try to forget the gaping chasm between their individual needs and the demands of society. They eat at Earls. Then, finally, we see them seek enlightenment, nay redemption. They pursue one of the only reasonable pastimes that our society has created. They watch one of my films, Grizzly Man, and learn of poor Timothy Treadwell, who does not tread-well, but treads too close to our animal nature as he seeks to break the barrier between man and beast. Poor Timothy takes such joy in scat of a bear named Sue, but he will eventually become the scat of another bear. We can only assume that he takes less joy in this. The men, however, take inestimable strides in escaping the primordial aspect of our world by engaging in this activity. Then they sleep.
The new day dawns. They take their time and don yet another set of equipment. This time they will not only slide down the mountains they will also walk back up them. Maybe there is hope for them after all. But we have to assume not.
The man with the hats wears yet another hat. The sandwich and beer man borrows equipment and believes he is masking his pain, but it is obvious to all. The oatmeal and quiet man we learn is a teacher; he demonstrates this through the day by teaching beer and sandwich man many things. The quiet one still escapes derision. Part man, mostly weasel continues as he was, although now he is insisting not only that everyone have a waffle, but that everyone ENJOY the waffle. Even without compote. What is he trying to communicate with this behavior? Every gray hair on my head may be called Kinski, but graying hairs on these collective heads shall forthwith be known as Werner. Facts sometimes have a strange power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable and yet it is so.
We see the men slide down hills, climb up hills and then repeat this activity. Why? Do they believe they will find their humanity within this nature, or that nature will find their humanity within these hills? We cannot know some things. And yet they do this activity until sandwich and beer man is past the point of exhaustion. And they keep going. Are they torturing this man for a reason or do they torture simply as a way to peak through the layer of civilization and embrace the chaos and murder that exist so closely but temporarily held at bay. They all start to tire. Their base instincts start to come through. They have reverted to pre-pubescent humor as a pair sing a ditty, an ode, to the titty. Another tells a tale of a man from Iraq. The reference ultimately to Bach does not add civility to this crude anecdote.
Finally they escape the mountains. Like Icarus, have they tried to fly away in these mountains, fly away to a place where society ceases to exist and civilization begins? If so, their journey must have scared them, as they immediately seek refuge in the closest place which most represents the oppression and strictures of society. They flee to the Chateau Whistler. A bourgeois attempt to cloak themselves in culture when they should have built a fire in the woods and asked the devil himself to join them.
Lasagna. The White Diamond. Sleep.
And then, for sandwich and beer man, this journey comes to an end. We can only speculate as to what happens to him after he leaves this compound. We can only speculate as to what happens to the others. I know, because I have seen into the cave behind the waterfall, but I will not tell you out of respect for their illusions that they so desperately cling to, foolishly believing it will save them from the chaos and destruction and murder that swirls around them as they swirl around the abyss. Ultimately, we must be grateful that the Universe knows no smile and that the weasel sings to the elephant only at night.