German film-maker Werner Herzog has said that he considers himself more an athlete of cinema than an artiste.

He was speaking at a meet-the-press organised as part of the 15th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) here on Sunday.

“I have a strange difficulty in viewing myself as an artiste. I see myself more as an athlete of cinema because film-making involves overcoming a number of physical challenges. My film ‘Aguirre: The Wrath of God,' for example, was made in extreme physical conditions,” Mr. Herzog said.

“I think I want to be a good soldier of cinema,” he said.

Not just technicalities

Equating cinema to poetry, Mr. Herzog said a good film was more about poetry, rhythm and music than technicalities. “I always encourage young directors to go for substance and poetry in their films rather than focussing on technicalities and finance. You should not be too academic in your approach. However, ultimately what constitutes cinema is a mystery,” he said.

The veteran director said he knew that he was going to become a film-maker from the age of 14. He made his first film at the age of 17. “I grew up in a very remote area and cinema was a distant dream. However, I financed my first film by working night shift as a welder in a nearby factory,” he said.

Mr. Herzog said though he had left his country many times to make movies, he had never left his culture. “All my films are still Bavarian films. Some young German directors who migrate to Hollywood seem to be leaving their cultural roots,” he said. However, there was an interesting life in German cinema today, he said.

Mr. Herzog said film-makers should not follow any particular method or ideology while working with actors. He himself dealt with different actors differently based on their style. The psychological approach to some of his films was to add an element of unpredictability which, he said, adds beauty to a film.

On a lighter note, Mr. Herzog said he had been portrayed as someone insane in the media because some of his characters were minimally insane. “But let me tell you that I am the only clinically sane person in cinema,” he said.

Mr. Herzog said he found the IFFK a unique and incomparable festival with incredible scope. “This festival showcases cinema which is generally neglected by the media and distribution companies. It is also a very unusual and vibrant festival where you have around 5,000 spectators for a screening,” he said.

Mohan Raghavan, the director of competition section Malayalam film T.D. Dasan Std 6 B, and Vikramaditya Motwane, director of the Hindi film Udaan, were also present. Mr. Raghavan said he was happy to have his debut film included in the competition section of the festival. Mr. Motwane, whose film was screened at the Cannes Festival, said Cannes was a learning experience.