Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The "Fitzcarraldo" Phenomenon

Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Director: Werner Herzog. Cast: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale, José Lewgoy. 158 min. Rated PG. West Germany/Peru. Biography/Adventure.

Burden of Dreams (1982)
Director: Les Blank. 95 min. Documentary.

Fitzcarraldo is Werner Herzog's magnum opus. It's not a documentary, but paradoxically famous for a surreal reality-inspired plot: the story of an insanely obsessed man who pulls an entire ship over an Amazon mountain. That sentence may sound poetic, but no ... the sight of this actually happening at the end of a long movie right before our eyes, blurs the line between reality and fiction in cinema. How can you call this a 'movie', when what you see accomplished without blue screens or green screens or CGI, is hard to imagine - even in real life?

So as expected, Burden of Dreams, which is Fitzcarraldo's "making of" documentary, simultaneously becomes another madman's (Herzog's, not Firtzcarraldo's) obsession to reach his own goal: a 4-year disaster project, which included its original actor (Jason Robards) leaving due to amoebic dysentery half-way through filming, huge bulldozers sliding down already-cleared muddy forest mountains, and three of the crew getting shot by Amazon tribesmen's arrows - among other calamities. If you ever have a difficult task ahead and start having doubts whether it can be completed, just watch this documentary. It'll clear all doubts.

A great example: read/watch Herzog's (hilarious) rant on his experiences filming in the jungle:

"Kinski always says it's full of erotic elements. I don't see it so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It's just - nature here is vile and base. I wouldn't see anything erotic here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and ... growing and ... just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they - they sing. They just screech in pain. It's an unfinished country. It's still prehistorical. The only thing that is lacking is - is the dinosaurs here. It's like a curse weighing on an entire landscape. And whoever goes too deep into this has his share of this curse. So we are cursed with what we are doing here. It's a land that God, if he exists has - has created in anger. It's the only land where - where creation is unfinished yet. Taking a close look at - at what's around us there - there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of... overwhelming and collective murder. And we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle - uh, we in comparison to that enormous articulation - we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban novel, a cheap novel. We have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication ... overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the - the stars up here in the - in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle. It is not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment."

And here's another good one, Klaus Kinski going off on the crew.

Mo says:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Have you seen Herzog's "My Best Fiend"?


    1. Yes! I saw it a few years ago ... and you commented on my post! ;-) But thanks for providing the subtitled version - you'll see why:


  3. Hahahaha, it was you that brought this film to my attention! Oh well at least you have access to the version with English Subtitles now :-D