Werner Herzog's self-proclaimed "science-fiction fantasy" is a meticulously constructed fiction made from a combination of real-life footage repurposed in ways a conventional documentarian couldn't imagine and original scenes of cult favorite Brad Dourif delivering a monologue about the alien Diaspora that stranded him on Earth. "I come from another galaxy,"...read more
Werner Herzog's self-proclaimed "science-fiction fantasy" is a meticulously constructed fiction made from a combination of real-life footage repurposed in ways a conventional documentarian couldn't imagine and original scenes of cult favorite Brad Dourif delivering a monologue about the alien Diaspora that stranded him on Earth. "I come from another galaxy," says the "Andromedan," a nameless alien who looks remarkably like Dourif in a windbreaker, gray hair pulled into an unruly ponytail. "A blue one, way, way beyond your world." Rarely has such an outlandish assertion seemed so eminently plausible. Standing in front of a desolate building that was once, he says, part of a failed city his fellow aliens built, the Andromedan begins a tale that's vintage conspiracy theory, part sheer playful eccentricity. Your ideas about extraterrestrials, the Andromedan warns, are all wrong. Though their planet produced great thinkers and scientists, by the time he and his fellow travelers completed the long, long, long voyage from their dying native world, a planet with a liquid nitrogen atmosphere, they were useless. Overall, he says, aliens suck. Anyway, after a disappointing stint at the CIA, where pencil-pushing bureaucrats ignored his repeated claims that he knew things, the Andromedan was involved in the Roswell incident. The most famous UFO in history came from his home world, and carried microscopic life that was only discovered decades later. The ensuing panic over alien contamination eventually proved much ado about nothing, but not before a worried government had launched a secret space mission to find other worlds for the human race to colonize, a mission Herzog charts through 16mm footage taken by the crew of a 1989 space shuttle, an alternately mesmerizing and tedious record of day-to-day life in a weightless environment. The Andromedan's home world, which they eventually reach, is evoked through footage of scuba divers exploring the frigid waters beneath the Antarctic ice, which teem with unexpected life. It makes the Andromedan sad, he says, to watch a diver sidestep an enormous, eerily drifting jellyfish the sentient creatures of his planet love to talk, but the humans ignore and even mistreat them. The alien is where you find it, and Herzog locates it in a faceless jellyfish that suddenly looks inexplicably lonely, and in the intimate spectacle of astronauts in gym shorts and tube socks turning lazy somersaults as they scribble notes and read reports. The wildest blue yonder is clearly in his head, and to glimpse it is a puzzling privilege.
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