In this documentary double feature, Herzog draws attention to two of war’s most vulnerable victims — children and nature. First up, BALLAD OF THE LITTLE SOLDIER — He’s 10. He smiles. He laughs. He kills. Drawing a bead on the plight of child soldiers sent to fight the Sandinistas in 1980’s Nicaragua, Herzog, accompanied by French-German journalist Denis Reichle, aims his camera toward the ravaged youths forced to fight the wars of men. And, without missing a shot of the action, hits the men behind the horrors which haunt the dreams of boys, who’ve all too soon learned: in war, there are no heroes.
Next, LESSONS OF DARKNESS — It’s a cold, vast, alien landscape, where only the flames are alive. In an apocalyptic vision of the present, Werner Herzog turns an unblinking eye on the burning oil fields of Kuwait, where the land’s habitual aridity feeds the fires of war at the close of the Gulf War. By land and air, this guided tour of “Satan’s National Park” burns to Mahler, Wagner, and Verdi as Herzog redefines the documentary as a vision of hell.