Dir. Werner Herzog
Fitzcarraldo has been near the top of my Must-See list for some time. I could never bring myself to watch it. This mainly had to do with the idea of a 2 ½ hour movie about building an opera house in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. Watching it seemed like it would be hard work, and I didn’t feel like working. I was surprised to find myself sucked into this man’s world and obsession.
Fitzcarraldo wants to build an Opera House in a small Peruvian town in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. To finance his dream he borrows money to buy a steamship to travel to an unclaimed territory of the jungle in an attempt to manufacture rubber from the trees that grow there. With the money from this operation, Fitzcarraldo will finally be able to make his dream come true. Over the course of his journey up the Amazon Fitzcarraldo will deal with inept crewmembers, the threat of savage Native Indians, and a nearly impossible feat. The movie’s centerpiece is stunning visually and in execution. In an attempt to cross from one side of the Amazon River to the other, the 340-ton steamship is hauled over a hill using ropes and pulleys and good ol’ manpower. Inch by inch, the ship makes its way up the steep incline as Herzog lets his camera linger on the massive undertaking. The sound of creaking floorboards and groaning steel add an element of suspense. This is outstanding filmmaking! What Fitzcarraldo finds on the other side of that hill is what’s most surprising. Herzog’s story of obsession results in a Buddhist parable – It’s not about the destination, but the journey.
Klaus Kinski is an absolute wonder to watch as the infatuated Fitzcarraldo. Herzog and Kinski’s relationship is legendary, but their’s ranks with the likes of Scorsese and DeNiro, and Capra and Stewart. They make an extraordinary team.
Herzog continues to crank out pictures about as often as Woody Allen or Michael Winterbottom. That’s good for us. Not every film he makes is great, but he’s still interested and he still loves film and it still shows. There’s a certain completeness about his movies – the audience is never left wanting. I look forward to catching up with other Kinski/Herzog titles I’ve mistaken as hard work.