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1,750 Ratings

Lessons of Darkness

Lektionen in Finsternis

Directed by Werner Herzog
Germany, France, 1992
Documentary, War
  • English, German
  • English, French


Shortly after the Gulf War, oil fires were raging all through Kuwait. In the week before this sea of fire would be extinguished, Werner Herzog filmed this apocalyptic landscape with its murky skies, scorched earth and capricious flames.

Our take

One of Werner Herzog’s most daring, unforgettable documentaries. Few words. Few interviews. Just sound and vision, emerging from the Gulf War’s wreckage with a look at hell-on-earth too unreal to exist—but it did. One of his best.

Lessons of Darkness Directed by Werner Herzog

Critics reviews

…In white letters sharply defined against a black screen, Blaise Pascal’s famous quote fittingly opens Lessons of Darkness(1992). I say fittingly because the quote is fake (it was fabricated by Herzog to direct his audience to engage on a very “high level” before the movie even properly begins) and because Lessons of Darkness, for all its profundity, isn’t exactly a true documentary, either. It is, however, exemplary of Herzog’s nonfiction style.
March 31, 2016
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Upon its release, Lessons of Darkness was criticized in many circles for its daring and grandiose repurposing of footage shot of a battered Kuwait just after the Gulf War. Using truly breathtaking 16mm images (many of them aerial shots), a sweeping orchestral score (Mahler, for example) and sparse but heavily biblical voice over, Herzog creates an apocalyptic opera of observation on war, environmental calamity and absurd human folly.
December 10, 2013
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