Movie Review: “Into the Inferno” – Monumental

Written by Matt Butler November 04, 2016

Into the InfernoInto the Inferno is a movie I struggle to critique. Mostly because documentaries are the hardest movies to critique. In many ways, they aren’t even movies. Documentaries capture life as it is, was and as it continues to happen. They’re as life-like as a movie can possibly be. Logically, many of the fictitious features I look for in a movie fall to the wayside, right? Werner Herzog doesn’t appear to think so.

Into the Inferno is a pure and simple passion project. Herzog, along with his captivating star/co-director Clive Oppenheimer, is fascinated with all that flows below. But this passion isn’t as fiery and explosive as its subject matter. Into the Inferno’s adept grasp on volcanology is cool and solidified. Much like the centuries old rock left from the molten tides. There’s never an eagerness to boast or educate. Herzog’s too occupied with the magma, the beautiful chaos, to latch onto any cause.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-2-57-34-am“Obviously there is the scientific side to our journey,”

Herzog’s thesis is that the volcano is the centerpiece for countless indigenous populations’ belief systems. It’s a symbol of power and patriotism for the North Korean people. By intention, these points play second to the raw majesty of the volcano, captured on all forms of film. From grainy hand-held news footage to sweeping high def helicopter shots. Herzog’s unspoken goal is to get us as close to the volcano as physically, historically and intellectually possible.


“It is hard to take your eyes off the fire that burns deep under our feet”

There’s an inherent reverence to the volcano. Herzog surrounds the film with devotees from many facets of life. Patriots, relic preservers, tribesmen, paleontologists and, of course, volcanologists. This broad scope of perspectives keeps Into the Inferno entrenched in objectivism. And maybe that’s what I’m really looking for in a documentary. That closeness to the real. The authentic. It’s easy to slip into cynicism with documentaries and “reality” television. You’re always conscious of possible cherry-picking. Herzog, however, puts himself in a position where cherry-picking would set him at a disadvantage. With all the natural beauty, there’s nothing worth hiding. You can tell everyone involved has a strong personal attachment and respect for volcanoes, and it resonates. Then again, is it still cherry-picking to take the most enthused and experienced people?

into-the-inferno_4e627472-9c3e-11e6-a472-803c9c62b420“There’s no permanence to what we are doing.”

What grabbed my attention the most was the cinematography (Peter Zeitlinger) and editing (Joe Bini). Documentaries get off easy in these departments simply for lack of a controlled environment. Into the Inferno is shot with a traditional cinematography mindset. It draws the eye from subject to subject through smooth camera movements and long takes. It’s a beautiful duality between eye-catching landscapes and eye-opening intellectuals. 

into the inferno, volcano

 “I think the volcano will destroy everything.”

I’ve gushed long enough, but for good reason. Anything that can silence my rampant cynicism is a success. But anything that can instill you with admiration for a field you’ve heard so little about, is a winner. I’m trying to introduce you to neat little films that only get limited exposure, so it’s nice to find one.

My Rating: 9/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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