INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS written and directed by Zak Penn, produced by Penn and Werner Herzog, with Herzog, Penn, Kitana Baker and Gabriel Beristain. 94 minutes. A Films We Like release. Opens Friday (September 24). For venues and times, see Movies, page 93. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
Incident at Lochness starts out looking like a conventional documentary, as conventional, that is, as any film about Werner Herzog looking for the Loch Ness Monster could be.
The unfortunate thing is that in order to discuss it, I have to spoil it.
It's fiction, both a mockumentary and a parody of the making-of genre, about a movie where everything goes wrong. It's also hilariously funny, because writer-director Zak Penn, who's apparently much smarter than the screenplay for Behind Enemy Lines would suggest, nails the tone of the genre perfectly. He also got Herzog to deliver a self-mocking performance, so everything he says sounds exactly like the things Herzog says in his own documentaries.
Herzog is the veteran German director of obsessive epics like Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre: The Wrath Of God and of perverse, fascinating documentaries like La Soufrière and Lessons Of Darkness, filmed in the burning oil fields of Kuwait. He tends to sound like a mystical loony, and he once threatened, on-set, to kill his most frequent star, Klaus Kinski.
This film is shot from the perspective of a documentary film crew following Herzog and Penn off to Scotland. You start to realize there's more going on when Penn shows up at a production meeting with official crew jumpsuits for everyone. You're torn between thinking Penn is a complete Hollywood jerk and the idea that something very screwy is happening.
It helps, of course, to be aware of who Herzog is and to have seen a few dozen feature-length making-of documentaries, because a lot of the comedy arises from the way Penn tweaks the form and its generally fawning tone. It's Lost In La Mancha meets The Blair Witch Project, only funnier.
I have to add that the message board for this film over at the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) may be even funnier than the film itself.