Werner Herzog may be the hardest working director in Hollywood. In the last year alone he has released three films, including the critically acclaimed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage, and La bohème, which features operatic shorts from several other well known international filmmakers.

Now comes My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done, a scandalous tale of an aspiring actor’s descent into madness. The film is inspired by the true story of Mark Yavorsky, a San Diego grad student who killed his mother after being cast in the lead role of a production of Sophocles’ “Electra.”

As what has become known as the Herzogian style, the German-born director does not stay true to Yavorsky’s original story. His name is changed to Brad McCullum and an interesting subplot is added in which McCullum becomes spiritually entranced by the mystic powers of the Urubamba River after traveling to Peru with a group of friends.

“He’s never been the same since the trip to Peru,” notes McCullum’s seemingly oblivious fiancé Ingrid, played effectively by Chloë Sevigny. The film begins where it ends, with McCullum’s mother lying dead in a pool of her own blood, as the progression of Brad’s psychotic behavior is revealed through flashbacks.

David Lynch executive produced the film, and one would be remiss not to see his absurdist style infused throughout. There’s one scene in particular where Brad and Ingrid sit down to dinner with Brad’s mother.

“I hope it’s not Jell-O,” Brad quips, as his mother plops down a large glass bowl filled to the brim with the dessert. Both Brad and Ingrid force down the Jell-O, while his mother waits next to him, for what seems like an eternity, until he finally offers her some.

It’s difficult to make any sense from this scene aside from the fact that Herzog’s pretensions, much like Lynch’s, are on full display when he’s free from the constraints of a studio.

I sat through all of 2006’s Rescue Dawn, Herzog’s first studio-financed film, and not even Christian Bale’s courageous performance as a U.S. fighter pilot left for dead in the jungles of Vietnam could stop me from nodding off. It’s all to Werner Herzog’s credit, however, that My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done is anything but a yawn.

Grade: B

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done releases in select theaters Dec. 18.