Paolo Stellino

What Is It like to Be in the Land of Silence and Darkness? Werner Herzog and the Paradox of Representing the Unrepresentable

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Keywords: Deaf-Blindness, Representation, Language, Isolation, Haptic Images.

Although Land of Silence and Darkness is a film that explores fundamental themes of Herzog’s cinema, it has thus far received relatively little critical attention. Drawing on the few previous studies dedicated to it, the aim of this paper is to show how this film addresses a central philosophical question: is it possible to experience the other’s otherness? In particular, Herzog engages with the question of the extent to which it is possible for a sighted person to imagine what it is like to be deaf and blind. The following defends the thesis that, although the experience of deaf-blindness is incommunicable and inaccessible to sighted people, and although all representations of it are inadequate, both Herzog, through the cinematographic medium, and Fini Straubinger, through metaphorical and poetic language, attempt to convey certain aspects of this experience.

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