werner herzog's christmas

In which our guest contributor Austrian film director Werner Herzog describes his uniquely idiosyncratic Christmas experience.

As Christmas approaches, I feel increasingly like I am trapped in one of Prince’s later more superfluous albums just before he felt it necessary to change his name to some strange hieroglyph that I still have difficulty pronouncing. I refuse to believe in a God who would have the bad taste to be born in the middle of Winter but at the same time I am overwhelmed by the opportunity to exchange unpleasant gifts with people I have spent my life pretending to like. This year however I have been perturbed by an occurrence.

My next door neighbor Mr. Hunter White has put up a nativity scene on his garden and has a model of Santa climbing a rope ladder into his bedroom window. There are also lights of many different colors that flash according to their own whimsical sequence. The effect on the whole is exquisitely ghastly and makes the whole of my frame shiver with nervous exhaustion. I have spent every night since he put the display up standing on my lawn and gazing at it and trying to make sense of the slapdash composition. Mr. White asked me last night if I would stop and I told him ‘I am afraid that would be utterly impossible.’

From this my neighbor who, despite the kitsch of his garden and house display, is not without some sensitivity, asked me if I disapproved of his Holiday Decorations. I respected his question and told him candidly I did not dislike them, but for me they uttered a truth to my soul that was too terrifying to fully comprehend and it was for this reason that I stood night after night in my own silent vigil trying in some way to unravel the mystery.

‘It’s just supposed to be pretty,’ he said.

But I could tell he wished me to expand and so I pointed to the Santa climbing the rope. ‘Look at the old man, Santa Claus, itself a derivative of Saint Nicholas, in some countries known as Old Nick, and as old Nick in his scarlet red garb, a figure who represent none other than the Devil himself. Climbing into your window. A smart devil. He will kill you and your wife first and then will be able to murder your three children at his leisure, before than partaking of the repast you have no doubt left out for him.’

‘Oh,’ said Mr. White, his complexion now perfectly suiting his snowy surname. ‘I might take that down then. But the nativity, that’s a nice scene?’

‘No, my God! That’s the worst of all,’ I cried.

‘How do you mean?’

‘The baby Jesus is born in a manger and the Maghi and Shepherds look on. But those Maghi have informed Herod of the prophecy and Herod in an attempt to forestall a threat to his own power will murder every male baby in Galilee. That baby has – by his birth – killed thousands of babies.’

‘But it isn’t his fault, he’s a baby.’

‘He is a GOD! How can it not be his fault?’

The next day the Nativity scene had been dismantled, Santa packed away and the sound of the children weeping and Mr. and Mrs. White arguing could clearly be heard above the sound of Lovesexy, Prince’s tenth studio album. Merry Christmas everybody. Merry Christmas.

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