This is not a misfire of a film, but a catastrophe of bad filmmaking. I’m trying to find out where all this went so wrong because it’s shockingly bad for a movie from such an extraordinary director. I can only fathom that Herzog was far more interested in shooting these dazzling locations of the Middle East that he seems to forget what to do with his actors placed within them. There are dozens of long shots where we’re meant to marvel more at the location than the actors, as when Gertrude and Henry are amazed to watch a waterfall. Perhaps Herzog hopes we’ll become just as lost as the characters in these stunning settings that we won’t question the melodrama unfolding in the foreground.
Herzog delivers a film that appears to be all style and zero substance. I learned nothing about Gertrude’s desire to explore and discover. I felt nothing for her passionless relationships that went nowhere and bred no emotion. Maybe Herzog wants us to see Gertrude Bell from another perspective, refusing to add in drama or romance that may not have been present in Gertrude’s real life.
I would believe that if it weren’t for her frequent pontifications on life in abysmally dry passages. I can’t bring myself to believe that Gertrude’s story was all this boring, melodramatic and without even the slightest notion of tension or desire. If it weren’t, why would Herzog have bothered to waste two hours of our time on such a tiresome portrait?