“I’ve always been interested in the difference between fact and truth, and I would call it the ecstatic truth.” — Werner Herzog
INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS (2004 20th Century Fox)
Directed by Zak Penn, written and produced by Zak Penn and Werner Herzog
Joe has a knack for recommending movies that I end up liking. We have a very similar sense of humour, we both find amusement in the absurd. Joe got me to buy Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man as well as Incident at Loch Ness, both from his bargain bin at the price of $5.99 each. While Incident at Loch Ness has all the appearances of a Herzog film, it’s actually a documentary within a documentary within a mockumentary directed by Zak Penn (The Grand). Incident At Loch Ness is a wry, smart rib-tickler that many just won’t get. But I do, and I have watched it a couple dozen times over the years.
Here’s the setup: A camera crew is filming a documentary on noted filmmaker Werner Herzog called Herzog in Wonderland. At the same time, Herzog is embarking on own documentary film called Enigma of Loch Ness. He will be shooting on location on the loch itself, and he plans to investigate the mythos surrounding it. Herzog is more interested in why people want to believe in monsters, rather than the monster itself. His producer, Zak Penn (Penn, as himself) has different ideas, and will resort to unethical trickery in order to get the blockbuster film he envisions. The pair travel to Scotland with a film crew, but Herzog is unaware of Penn’s duplicity.
Penn hires a sexy sonar operator (Kitana Baker, as herself) with no sonar experience, and a strange cryptozologist (Michael Karnow, as himself) for comedic relief. Penn makes absurd demands of the crew, such as having the engines on the boat replaced by significantly weaker ones in order to get better sound coverage. Through the chaos, Herzog just wants to make his movie, but the project is doomed to fail.
Incident At Loch Ness doesn’t try to be profound. Herzog (the character) never finds out just why people want to believe in a modern dinosaur. Herzog (the actor) plays it straight while Penn and Karnow play it for laughs. The style is largely improvised, and I would rate Incident at Loch Ness equal to some of the better Christopher Guest films.
I also loved the DVD bonus features, which shed a little light (but not too much) on the making of the film. There is a comedic audio commentary track with Zak Penn that takes the gag even further as well, before cutting out abruptly mid-movie. Incident at Loch Ness is a low budget classic that I hope will appeal to those who are sick and tired and the same old comedies. It will especially appeal to fans of Herzog. As the straight man, he’s absolutely perfect.
Werner Herzog … Himself/Writer/Producer
Kitana Baker … Herself
Gabriel Beristain … Himself
Russell Williams II … Himself
David A. Davidson … Himself
Michael Karnow … Himself
Robert O’Meara … Himself
Zak Penn … Himself/Writer/Producer/Director
Steven Gardner … Himself