Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In Came from Netflix! Incident at Loch Ness (2004)

When you ponder whimsy, you naturally think of the Germans…

Well, actually, you probably don’t. That might be why I was a little bewildered as to the motives behind Werner Herzog’s (!) Incident at Loch Ness, a film that suggests what The Blair Witch Project would have been like had it be made by mockumentarian Christopher Guest.

The film follows a bunch of filmmakers, including Herzog, playing themselves. Screenwriter Zak Penn (who directed the film and co-wrote it with Herzog), who worked on the scripts of such films as Behind Enemy Lines and X-Men 2, is producing Herzog’s latest film, a documentary that Herzog envisions as an examination of Man’s apparent need for myths, centering on Nessie and filmed on location.

Penn is outwardly excited by working with the legendary director, but he’s been tainted by Hollywooditis, and unknown to Herzog, plans to make the film a much more conventional opus so as to insure commercial success on an American scale. To this end he outfits the filmmakers with uniforms in hopes of making the film appear to be an actual search to find Nessie. He hires a ridiculously buxom brunette, Kitana Baker—also playing herself, and who makes introductions by noting that she was one of the two women in that famous Miller Light cat fight commercial—to play a sonar expert. He may even be willing to go even farther to ensure success…

Penn’s plans go awry, however. First, Herzog is not a fool (and as somebody who has worked in films for 40-odd years, presumably has a good deal of experience with liars and mountebanks). He quickly kens that Penn is up to something, although he tries to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as he can.

Penn’s other main problem is that a smaller documentary crew is filming a movie about Herzog's life, and they are often capturing on camera things Penn would rather go unseen.

Finally, what if Nessie isn’t entirely a myth at all…

I was a little bewildered as to the intent of the film, which is played almost entirely straight, and seemingly wishes to suggest that it’s an actual documentary. (In the array of deleted scenes, Penn’s ‘character’ is much more broadly comic, and obviously these sequences were cut when a generally serious tone was decided upon. I give Penn credit, by the way, for playing 'himself' as such a prick.) By the end, when the crew find themselves in fear for their lives on the desolate, fog-shrouded lake, the Blair Witch comparisons are both inevitable and a bit puzzling. Only the exaggeratedly comic music that closes the film really suggests that the movie was meant as a jape.

Still and all, it’s an interesting little film, especially for Herzog fans, and certainly a better Loch Ness Monster movie than the usual dreck like Beneath Loch Ness.

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