Bells from the Deep

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Bells from the Deep
Directed by Werner Herzog
Produced by Lucki Stipetic
Ira Barmak
Alessandro Cecconi
Written by Werner Herzog
Starring Anna Hitch
Narrated by Werner Herzog
Cinematography Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein
Edited by Rainer Standke
Release date
Running time
60 min.
Country Germany
United States
Language English

Bells from the Deep: Faith and Superstition in Russia, is a 1993 documentary film written and directed by Werner Herzog, produced by Werner Herzog Filmproduktion.


Bells from the Deep is German director Werner Herzog's documentary investigation of Russian mysticism. The first half of the film is concerned primarily with Vissarion, a Russian faith healer claiming to be the reincarnation of God as was Jesus. Herzog uses primarily interviews with Russians and scenes from the religious services of the two Holy men. Herzog also has several segments on the religion of Siberian nomads.

The second half of the film is primarily concerned with the legend of the lost city of Kitezh. This myth is about a city that was in peril of being destroyed by marauding Mongols, but whose citizens prayed for rescue. Hearing their prayers, God placed the city at the bottom of a deep lake, where it resides to this day. Some even say that one can hear the bells from the city's church. The story is recounted by a local priest and pilgrims visiting the lake.

Throughout the movie a character claiming to be the second coming of Jesus appears. Towards the very end of the film he blesses the viewers of the film. This man is Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop who has later received much attention as the religious leader Vissarion.


Herzog, as he often does, embellished the story of the Lost City considerably, acknowledging his fabrications fully:

"I wanted to get shots of pilgrims crawling around on the ice trying to catch a glimpse of the lost city, but as there were no pilgrims around I hired two drunks from the next town and put them on the ice. One of them has his face right on the ice and looks like he is in very deep meditation. The accountant’s truth: he was completely drunk and fell asleep, and we had to wake him at the end of the take."[1]

Herzog defends the fabrication as reaching a greater truth:

"I think the scene explains the fate and soul of Russia more than anything else."

This is in keeping with Herzog's beliefs about truth in film.

The film also contains shots of pilgrims, which are in fact people ice fishing. The chanting Siberians are only performing religious services in one of their two major scenes. In the other they are simply singing a love song.


  1. ^ "Herzog on Herzog", by Paul Cronin (London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 2002)

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