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The Strict Physicality of the Sublime in Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God
In this paper, I discuss the issue of embodiment, the body and materiality in Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). In order to accomplish this aim, I will try and analyze what is the meaning of embodiment in this film and its relationship to Edmund Burke’s idea of Physiological Sublime. I will analyze how the film’s cinematography and actors’ performances create an environment of non-separation between consciousness and the body, deeply questioning the mind/body divide. This questioning results in the overcoming of the idea of individual self, towards self-transcendence. The close relationship that Herzog researches here between the Sublime and the strict physicality leads us, on the one hand, to experience an overpowering of the self and, on the other hand, to an intense sensation of exaltation, sometimes even to self- transcendence. The central question is thus not to what extent the physiological Sublime is created by Aguirre’s technical and artistic options, but in what way the experience of the Sublime affects the perceiving subject through embodiment. I will argue that, in Aguirre, the physical components of the aesthetic experience are a pathway to the foundation of new subjectivity and a new bodily understanding that estabishes an entanglement with the physical landscape, creating an experience of exaltation, self-transcendence and disruption.