The Fire Within (Documentary Review: “Into the Inferno”)


The transformative power of volcanoes throughout the course of human history, wielding destruction and commanding worship across cultures and religions, as only Werner Herzog can ignite.


SnapShot Plot

Into the Inferno is a dazzling and meditative film about the most dangerous volcanoes situated in the world’s most obscure and mysterious countries, including Indonesia, Ethiopia and even North Korea. The spark for this visually mesmerizing, soul-stirring and even quirky documentary ignited from the embers of a much earlier project, Encounters at the Edge of the World, which took Werner Herzog to Antarctica where he met Clive Oppenheimer, a vulcanologist from the University of Cambridge. Years later the pair reunited to explore the mythical power of the volcano among both primitive and contemporary cultures, infusing mankind’s understanding of our place in the natural world as well as manifesting as a gateway to a magical, indeed religious realm beyond and beneath the raging fires within.



Parting Shot

The films of Werner Herzog defy a strict cinéma vérité definition of the documentary (Grizzly Man; Fitzcaraldo and others), being the very antithesis of fly-on-the-wall observational film making. His very personality – brimming with cultural and mystical curiosity about people and places which are larger than life – infuses every frame. Indeed he is often the narrator of these explorations into the unknown, as is the case with Into the Inferno. Combined with the sober and droning German cadence of Herzog’s own voice, the breathtaking images of flowing lava and fiery craters captured by cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger, and the surreal beauty of the musical score by Keith Emerson, Into the Inferno takes on a dreamlike quality all its own. By the end of the film, one feels not so much informed about volcanoes as inspired by them; it’s no great feat of imagination to understand how intertwined is Nature, God & Man when our very planet has at its core such a raging cauldron of fire which at any moment will make a mockery of all of human existence.


Into the Inferno is presently streaming on Netflix

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YouTube Trailer:

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