It’s probably around the period of The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner that Werner Herzog started coining the concept of “ecstatic truth”.
Here’s what the man thinks about it:
There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylisation.
That being said, here’s a documentary about a Swiss sky jumper, Walter Steiner. Besides being an athlete, Steiner is also shown sculpting a piece of wood and talking in grandiose metaphores about its meaning. Just once. Are we to directly associate sky jumping with a sort of artistic endeavour?
Most likely. Herzog has expressed in numerous times his high regard towards sky jumpers, their unique act and their psychological struggle and his own regret for not being one. But he feels like one, and he makes an emotional connection between the ordeals of his craft - filmmaking, and that of Steiner’s.
The film follows - (sometimes in gorgeous old-fashioned news stand-up style, by WH himself; sometimes in slow motion shots of the jumps) the 1974 competition at Planica in former Yugoslavia.
Fantastic use of music.
Late note: There’s such a joy and vibrancy of filmmaking at work here, just makes me giddy.