Into the Inferno

Dan Clendenin
1 min readNov 29, 2020


By Dan Clendenin

Into the Inferno (2016)

In this documentary about volcanoes, which he has filmed since 1976, the inimitable Werner Herzog joins forces with the Cambridge volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer to explore one of earth’s most violent wonders. The movie is partly based on Oppenheimer’s book Eruptions That Shook the World. The peripatetic Herzog makes six stops around the world. He begins and ends on the island of Vanuatu, moves to Antarctica, then Indonesia (more volcanoes than any country in the world), Ethiopia, Iceland, and North Korea. This being Herzog, he’s interested in the volcanoes, but what he’s really interested in are the belief systems of humans that surround the volcanoes. Nature is his stage, but human nature is his plot. So, in addition to footage of the haunting and terrifying beauty of volcanic eruptions and rivers of molten lava (accompanied by operatic arias), we’re introduced to the spirits, dances, rituals, and processions of local traditions. Says Herzog, “obviously, there was a scientific side to our journey, but what we were really chasing was the magical side, the demons, the new gods.” I watched this film on Netflix.

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