Werner Herzog — the Bavarian art-house master — isn’t one to back down from a challenge. The self-described “soldier of cinema” once hauled a steamboat over a mountain for Fitzcarraldo, trekked through the Sahara to capture mirages for Fata Morgana, and he’s worked with — and pulled great performances from — one of the most manic and difficult actors ever filmed, Klaus Kinski.
And now he’s made what’s essentially an AT&T-sponsored PSA, aimed at young people, an audience he doesn’t generally attract. But the project is classic Herzog: He finds compelling characters, captures them in severe cinematography and distills a moral that’s anything but easy to forget. Think of it as Into the Abyss but for YouTube.
“I knew I could do it,” Herzog told the AP,” because it has to do with catastrophic events invading a family. In one second, entire lives are either wiped out or changed forever. That kind of emotional resonance is something that I knew I could cover.”
His 35-minute, sobering documentary is called From One Second to the Next, and it examines the consequences of texting and driving from the perspectives of victims, perpetrators and others affected. It’s surprisingly gripping, even heartbreaking, and it will hold your attention like no PSA ever has.
Its effectiveness comes from Herzog’s outsider perspective. The 70-year-old filmmaker says he doesn’t text at all, but it seems he sees something dangerous, or at least concerning, in that part of youth culture. “I see there’s something going on in civilization,” he said, “which is coming with great vehemence at us.”
What exactly that quote means, I’m not quite sure. But, when watching the film, one gets the feeling that Herzog is saying something more about texting than its tendency to cause car accidents. Perhaps he’s saying that it also separates us, paradoxically, from our fellow man. Perhaps not. You decide.
Watch From One Second to the Next in its entirety below.