His straightforward, austere direction corresponding with his subjects’ difficult interaction with the world, Werner Herzog masterfully conveys the logistical, emotional, and psychological burden suffered by the hearing and sight-impaired in Land of Silence and Darkness. Fini Straubinger, a woman who lost both sight and hearing during a severe staircase fall at the age of nine, is the primary focus of Herzog’s documentary, which begins by joining the 56-year-old on her first plane flight before following her around the Bavarian countryside to meet and help those with similar disabilities. Remarkably competent and well-spoken, Straubinger communicates via a tactile, hand-touching technique that remains elusive for many of the impaired individuals she meets, from two young boys born blind and deaf to a 22-year-old man so neglected as a child that he never learned to walk and now spends his days spitting and slamming rubber balls against his mouth. Sensorially trapped inside themselves and, thus, cut-off from their surroundings and fellow man, these tragic figures are treated with modest sympathy by Herzog, whose directorial reserve bestows the film with an attitude of fascinated detachment. And yet Land of Silence and Darkness ultimately benefits from the filmmaker’s refusal to overtly express his sympathies (or lack thereof), as it instead allows its organic mise-en-scène – including the heartbreaking image of a braying calf running back to its mother, an echo of many deaf-blinds’ yearning for familial contact – to speak volumes about the intrinsic human desire for empathetic communion.