The first thing that catches our attention is the title. Already we're a
little suspicious. It's not "The Loch Ness Monster," "Discovering Nessie,"
"The Lake Serpent Revealed," or anything like that. It's an "incident."
Which allows for all sorts of possibilities.
The kernel is that Werner Herzog, a director of German extraction and a taste
for the singular, if not bizarre ("Fitzcarraldo"), is living in L.A. and
planning a documentary about the Loch Ness monster that will be produced by
Zak Penn, who wrote the recent Ben Kingsley starrer, "Suspect Zero and here debuts
as a director. Herzog brings his favorite cameraman, Gabriel Beristain ("S.W.A.T.", "Blade II") into the
creative mix as he and Penn plan the venture.
Somebody thinks there's some kind of story here, not so much about the
presumed scripted version (purportedly, "The Enigma at Loch Ness") but,
rather, about putting it into production form. A documentary. So, pal John
Bailey, a cinematographer in his own right ("The Kid Stays In the Picture"),
records the proceedings documentary style, which is what we're seeing,
beginning with a longwinded introductory scene of a gathering of forces at
Herzog's house. This is where Jeff Goldblum, apparently another Herzog inner
circle member, shows up for dinner and a quick close up.
The suggestion here is that this is all real, except that it's completely
staged, with all these characters as the main characters. Yes, Beristain is
filming it once we get out on the Loch and, yes, his footage is intercut with
Bailey's, but so are "Rashoman"-styled talking heads giving their side of the
The presumed producer Penn who is actually the director (No, not
Herzog--we had you fooled), and plays (we think it's an act) an obnoxious
type with his own agenda. (However hidden beneath his "character", the
impression of a natural self-promoter is inescapable). He attempts to
provide his own footage by ordering Beristain to film without Herzog, the
supposed director, aware of what they're doing. Herzog rightfully explodes!
The character of the producer as directed by himself as the real director
embarrasses himself for deceiving his supposed friend and collaborator. Oh,
these convoluted inside realities and industry egos!
Added to the crew-cast are a supposed doctor-crypto-zoologist who also has a
private agenda regarding the legendary Nessie; and, presumably in response to
someone saying, "Hey, we need a chick!", a beauteous sonar operator, Kitana
Baker. If you have to have sonar to spot the underwater creature, the
operator of it might as well be an attention getting element. In so
gratuitous a role, Baker adds sexuality and spunk and acquits herself
There is a water-borne model of a sea dragon to raise the dramatic level a
notch or two, but mostly it's a pseudo-real fantasy of a genre spawned by "The
Blair Witch Project" and carried on contemporaneously with "September Tapes."
Not that it's not fun. In what I found a charming surprise, Herzog's
personality is wryly amusing, a guy who can convey the dimensionality of
things along with personal stress. Not a bad actor, with a feisty
intelligence and a formidable film history. It's mostly interest in him and
how he handles the threatening developments, the betrayals and
disappointments that keeps our attention throughout the fabricated drama and
makes one actually care about how it will all come out. Or, was I deceived
into thinking so?
As for the deceptions, hey, this is Hollywood hyper-illusion arranged by some
talented people getting away from the scripted norm. It's to be appreciated
even if it's too much of the same thing and even if enthusiasm for it doesn't
rise much above lake level.
~~ Jules Brenner