Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

Warner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980) is a fun documentary short directed by Les Blank. In this short Herzog makes good on a promise that he made to Errol Morris to eat his shoe if Morris ever finished his film. Morris completed Gates of Heaven, and Herzog dined on shoe leather at its screening.

In what seems typical, Herzog goes the distance in preparing his shoes and consuming them. He stuffs them with onion, garlic, and parsley, and adds them to a large vat and lets them cook for several hours. He even seasons them with hot sauce, and discusses with a chef what to serve along with them.

At the screening, Herzog feasts on his shoes while taking questions from the audience. Blank intercuts scenes from a Charlie Chaplin film with two people also eating their shoes, and throughout he includes a jaunty polka song about old whiskey shoes on the soundtrack.

While the overall tone is light in this short, some serious observations about film and about Morris do come from Herzog. He sees the shoe-eating as a form of encouragement to Morris and as a means to bolster the film’s publicity with the hopes of getting a major to pick it up.

On Gates of Heaven, Herzog comments, “It’s a film of a very mature filmmaker, and I like it very much.” On the value of film the society, he says, “Films might change our perspective of things.” Then he follows with, “But there’s a lot of absurdity as well,” just as this short shows.

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