Into the Inferno ★★★★

Werner Herzog's warm reminder that ash and magma shall engulf us all. Volcanoes are the excuse; impermanence the theme. But what a gloriously shot excuse, lava flowing like a heraclitean acid trip. Begins in Vanuatu with the crew worried Herzog will try and launch them inside the volcano. (They have reason to worry). I've always loved Herzog's nonfiction more than his fiction—his Bavarian demons are more endearing in this format (they truly do run free). Here he's after the demonology, the mythology of fire across cultures and time. There's even room for fun like the bit in Ethiopia (birthplace of the species) starring a few overly excited fossil hunters. Another segment is about the poetry of Iceland—as tied to volcanic activity as Westerns to the Far West. Best in show is the chapter on North Korea. You get an exasperated Herzog dealing with the official Korean version of history: spanning less than a century, a grotesque anthropomorphization of a volcanic myth expresses itself through Kim Il-sung worship. North Korea commits the Herzogian cardinal sin of fancying itself an eternal country. This he will not abide. Meanwhile, in Vanuatu, the people await the arrival of "John Frum", the prophesied messiah who is to bring chewing gum and all sorts of consumer goods to the region. You cannot make this stuff up, not even Herzog.

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