Salt and Fire

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Salt and Fire
Salt and Fire.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Werner Herzog
Produced by Michael Benaroya
Pablo Cruz
Werner Herzog
Nina Maag (de)
Screenplay by Werner Herzog
Based on Aral
by Tom Bissell
Starring Michael Shannon
Veronica Ferres
Gael García Bernal
Music by Ernst Reijseger
Cinematography Peter Zeitlinger
Edited by Joe Bini
Distributed by XLrator Media
Release date
  • 12 June 2016 (2016-06-12) (Shanghai)
  • 17 November 2016 (2016-11-17) (Germany)
  • 7 December 2016 (2016-12-07) (France)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Salt and Fire is a 2016 internationally co-produced thriller film directed by Werner Herzog. It had its premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival.[1][2] It was selected to be screened in the Special Presentations section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.[3]


Three scientists (Dr. Laura Sommerfield, Dr. Fabio Cavani, and Dr. Arnold Meir) are sent to South America as part of a U.N. investigation into an ecological disaster of Salar de Uyuni. In the past, two rivers had been diverted for irrigation, but the effort failed, and the result was an ever growing toxic salt flat.

Upon landing, all three are kidnapped by the man who had become CEO (played by Michael Shannon) of the large international consortium held responsible for the ecological disaster. He seems both tormented by the disaster and uncertain of its significance in the larger scheme of things—for the nearby supervolcano, Uturunku, has begun to show a ground-lift in the areas around it, which may or may not be signs of an eruption in our time (if such a thing were to happen, and depending on the degree of the eruption, it could be a worldwide cataclysmic event).

The two male scientists are given food that induces extreme digestive distress to keep them out of the way. Meanwhile, Laura is taken to the middle of the salt flat and stranded near a rocky outcropping with two nearly blind children named Huascar and Atahualpa, the names of the last two pre-Columbian rulers of the Incan Empire, whose last independent acts were to go to war against each other. The three have been provided with enough food and water for a week, but it is uncertain whether or not they have been stranded for good.

Instead of trying to convince Dr. Sommerfield not to publish by argument, the CEO has staged the kidnapping and stranding of Sommerfield and the children with hope that it will drive home the emotional costs associated with the disaster, and that it would get her to publish a report that goes beyond statistics and figures. Later, the CEO reveals that the two children are his adoptive sons, and that their blindness is due to the disaster wrought by the CEO's own Consortium. Dr. Sommerfield is then given a first-class ticket to Rome, to visit the Santissima Trinità dei Monti convent (at the top of the Spanish Steps), which the CEO had always wanted to see, in order to view its cloister, which features an anamorphic fresco of Saint Francis of Paula praying under a tree. She urges the CEO to come with her instead of turning himself in, but he says he would be caught anyway.


See also[edit]

  • La Soufrière, a 1977 documentary film by Werner Herzog about the La Grande Soufrière volcano in Guadeloupe.
  • Into the Inferno, a 2016 documentary film by Werner Herzog about the exploration of active volcanoes in Indonesia, Iceland and Ethiopia.


External links[edit]