Incident At Loch Ness

Incident At Loch Ness (2004)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Werner Herzog, Zak Penn
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes

The mother of all mockumentaries has arrived! There, you have it. Completely out of the left field I received "Incident At Loch Ness" last week and being a fan of Werner Herzog’s films, I immediately decided to give this film a try. What a ride, once again! And completely unexpected and different from anything I could have imagined.

The film starts with a small documentary film crew, helmed by acclaimed cinematographer/director John Bailey, trying to chronicle Werner Herzog’s work on his next film project. Werner Herzog, of course, is known for the extreme lengths he goes to in order to capture his images on celluloid as authentically as anyhow possible. The fact the he actually pulled an entire shipped over a mountain in the Amazonian jungle during the shoot of "Fitzcarraldo" speaks volumes of his way of filmmaking. To him, filmmaking has a lot to do with credibility and the words shortcut or sell-out do not exist in this man’s vocabulary. Herzog is also very determined and multi-talented and can easily act as an auteur, producing, directing, writing, and shooting his films all by himself. As result he always has a very strong vision of his projects and keeps a very firm grip on things at all times.

For his latest project about the infamous Loch Ness monster, Herzog teams up with Zak Penn as a producer. Penn is a Hollywood screenwright who’s worked on films such as "Elektra," "X-Men 2" and others, and tries on the producer shoes for the first time. The documentary now shows us the preparations for the film Herzog and Penn are going to make together, starting with an informal dinner at Herzog’s house where the crew members meet for the first time to get to know each other in a social setting, complete with some others of Herzog’s friends, including Jeff Goldblum. A few days the team travels to Scotland to begin the shoot of the movie but it quickly becomes evident that things are not really going the way they should. Every once in a while Penn is making arbitrary decisions regarding the project without Herzog’s consent and approval and before long, an infuriated Werner Herzog is ready to quit the project. But he would not be Herzog if he would turn back at just the first obstacle, now, would he? So he stays to complete the film as things get headier and headier with every minute the film crew is spending with each other. What started out as a documentary on the making of Werner Herzog’s serious elaboration on the Loch Ness monster suddenly becomes the viewfinder for inter-personal differences and a film production in utter distress. It is like nothing you have ever seen!

I do not want to give away too much of the film because I felt that exploring it was half of the fun. You get to see Werner Herzog at his very self. I have met and chatted with the director on a variety of occasions and what you get to see here, is Herzog at his truest. This IS the man we all have come to respect. Seeing him in some of the most comic moments however – intended or unintended – is a twist I did not expect at all. And yet again, it is SO Herzog when you think about it. The film is full of surprises and as the events unfold you can’t but shake your head at the absurdity on display and begin to develop a wonderful sense of appreciation for this quirky film – an admiration that quickly catapulted it into my personal hall of most-loved films. The last time I had the feeling I saw an instant-classic was when I first watched "Gods & Monsters," just to give you an idea how rarely I truly fall in love with a movie like this, especially these days.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is presenting "Incident At Loch Ness" in its original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio on this DVD in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The image is pretty good, especially considering that the film has been produced on video equipment rather than 35mm film for the most part. There’s the occasional grain but that’s about it. Images are always balanced with natural coloring and good shadow definition. Black levels are solid and never break up. No notable edge-enhancement is evident and the compression is also without flaws.

The audio on the DVD comes as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track that has been well mixed. Given the documentary nature of the production it is not a very aggressive mix but it makes good use of the surround channels nonetheless. Dialogues are very well integrated and always understandable and the film has a great atmospheric score that underscores the images and scenes.

The release also contains a few extras, such as a <$commentary,commentary track> featuring Zak Penn and Werner Herzog. Since the film is such a heavy-weight caliber, the <$commentary,commentary track> is simply a must-listen-to, there’s no way around it. It is filled with additional tidbits, anecdotes and lots of technical and non-technical information.

Having said that, however, look out for the DVD’s hidden feature, which is a second <$commentary,commentary track> featuring Zak Penn and Werner Herzog. This second, hidden commentary is almost more exciting and valuable as the two re-iterate the film from another perspective… one that is a bit more truthful, shall we say?

On the flip side of the DVD you will find the additional extras of the release. "Professor Karnow’s Kabinet Of Kuriosities" is a featurette that features many more of Karnow’s outrageous philosophical views. It is a treasure trove of the absurd and will make you crack up over and over again.

Also included is a featurette on Zak Penn, as he elaborates on many more of the issues surrounding the film and its making. From his feelings of guilt to his shoes, Penn covers a lot of ground here, so check it out.

The third featurette covers Werner Herzog with additional footage and musings by the director.

As I said, "Incident At Loch Ness" is one of the most surprising and refreshing films to come across my desk in a long time. It is a film that every film fan should check out and enjoy. Unexpected, wild, and rabidly funny, you will be taken for one hell of a ride. This DVD gets ten thumbs up!