Werner Herzog's film Aguirre: The Wrath of God is one of my favourite films. There are wonderful scenes, like the conquistadores climbing down the Andes at the beginning and the last scenes of the raft half-sinking down the Amazon carrying an insane Klaus Kinski and little monkeys that squeak and clamber like primate rats. It's a rich and haunting film, and poetic in that it suggests more than it states.
Now he's made a documentary, From One Second to the Next, that shows the victims of accidents cause by drivers texting. An athletic boy is crippled, a go-getting woman is brain damaged, an Amish family and a couple of engineers have been killed. Their families are stricken and have the dignity of those who are bearing pain and sorrow. "I can't tell him to go play in the yard," says the mother of the once athletic boy, and it's heart-breaking.
Two of the texting drivers appear, and they are dignified as well, dragging around a burden of remorse.
From One Second to the Next has been designed as an educational film to be taken around schools and shown by government agencies. It was sponsored by AT&T.
Herzog says:- "What AT&T proposed immediately clicked and connected inside of me. There's a completely new culture out there. I'm not a participant of texting and driving — or texting at all — but I see there's something going on in civilization which is coming with great vehemence at us."
I don't know what he means by that - perhaps that this is the Age of Distraction in both senses of the word (constant entertainment, not paying attention) but what he has made is an educational film of beauty and power, unlike the pedestrian educational films from my school days.
I have some memories of films about how tractors can roll over and kill you (I went to a country school), how to equip yourself for tramping in the bush and how to avoid venereal disease. They were probably put together by a couple of underlings in the Department of Education rather than a highly acclaimed director. Occasionally there would be mini-dramas eg one called something like Seven Candles about a father who manages to avoid all possible car accidents to get to his daughter's birthday until the last scene when he steps out from behind a parked van.
I've been watching Top of the Lake and I bet that Jane Campion could probably knock out a powerful film on bush safety, since she does convey the chilly hostility of New Zealand wilderness. Other directors come to mind - Woody Allen on safe sex perhaps? Danny Boyle's nerve-twisting 127 Hours raises painful awareness of what could happen if you don't follow a cardinal rule of hiking or mountaineering - tell someone where you're going.
I'd like to think that a director of Herzog's talent will make the message stick that texting when driving is dangerously stupid - even Jeremy Clarkson wouldn't argue with that. However drivers do turn their eyes to other things than what's ahead when hurling their chunks of metal down the roads. This is the Age of Distraction after all.
From a cycling forum the other day
“4 drivers texting/reading maps on their phones. I only cycled past about 40 cars so that was a startling 10% of all drivers I saw on my 10 minute commute this morning.”