On his arrival, Herzog went to some pains to assure the press that the film crew were not coming as â€˜an invading armyâ€™ â€“ but that they might â€™cause some inconvenience once in a whileâ€™. However, when word got out about his plans to use rats, tremors of apprehension began to spread through the ancient town.
â€˜My film is about a community that is invaded by fear,â€™ he explained in an attempt to assuage the unease he sensed building up. â€˜The rats are a very decisive element, almost a key to the film because they signify this invasion of fear.
â€˜We are using laboratory rats from Hungary,â€™ he went on. â€˜They are albinos with red eyes and very beautiful. Very beautiful and very scary! They are also quite small and distinct from savage rats; they are tame, and will be sterilised so that they cannot reproduce. We only want to release them in controllable places, like very narrow streets. We will block all the escape routes; we will close the doors; we will build a fence. Not one single rat in the whole world can escape!â€™
However, as the newspaper stories which followed these pronouncements graphically reveal, Herzogâ€™s optimism was not fulfilled.
A total of 11,000 rats were bred in Hungary for the scenes, and then imported to the barn of a local farmer where they were to be kept until required. Upon seeing them, however, Herzog was not satisfied with their appearance and had them all painted greyâ€¦
Even so, Herzog was still faced with the local burgermeisterâ€™s refusal to grant permission for the rats to be freed in the streets.
â€˜I had to resort to a stratagem,â€™ he explained. â€˜I pretended to pack up and leave Delft â€“ but before anyone could stop me I suddenly released the rats and shot the scenes. A lot of them ran away, Iâ€™m afraid. We never found them.â€™
08 Nov 2018