The tortured production history of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (ably recorded in Les Blank's documentary Burden of Dreams) tends to take the spotlight away from this deeply mesmerizing film. And that's unfortunate, because the film itself is even more fascinating than the trials and tribulations, amazing though they might be, that led to its being made. Part of the problem is the film's deliberate, some might say ponderous, pace, which invites the viewer to experience the slow immersion into the jungle that Fitzcarraldo and company experience. Herzog did something similar in Aguirre, the Wrath of God, sometimes aiming his camera at the river rapids for extended periods of time, with hypnotic results. This could never happen in a Hollywood film, and it should be treasured. --Jim Gay
Rare is the film nowadays that says so much with so little. Dialogue is used very sparingly throughout Fitzcarraldo, but that's all the better, for Kinski's Fitzcarraldo doesn't need words to express his dream. Every close-up of that intense face tells more than two hours of annoying chatter ever could. With his sharp features, searing gaze and untamed mane, Kinski is indeed Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald. A man possessed by his dream, by his mission to bring one of the most delectable of human creations, opera, to the 'wilds.' I agree most wholeheartedly with that reviewer who mentionned the role of Kinski's hair. It indeed has a life of its own and it mesmerizes the viewer. Like the antennae of Fitz's spirit, it stiffens in determination to see his passion come to bear, and then flys off his head, when the dream is realized. Every single second of this masterpiece is artfully necessary. Every stony gaze from the Indians, every sweeping shot of the misty jungle fits perfectly into place, creating a mosaic of colossal proportions. The scenes of the boat being painfully nudged over the hill mirror the struggle of creation itself. Or my favorite: when the Indians board the boat and meet Fitz for the first time. Herzog closes-up on how the chief gently touches, then rubs Fitz's palm. Two minutes that cast us into eternity. What could it mean? A symbol of our underlying brotherhood, a first 'clash' between 'the civilized' and 'the wild?' I don't even pretend to know, nor do I particularly care, for the soothing, almost sensual warmth of the scene brings that inner peace that all great art should.
Ponderous? Deliberate? Yes and rightly so. Good things, great things, whether they be an exquisite meal, passionate lovemaking or the creation of a masterpiece, take their own time, irregardless of the frantic chaos that surrounds them. Fitzcarraldo is one such 'time-less' experience. Dive in and revel in its every breathtaking second!
Not only does this film enrichen our senses, it strengthens our hearts. Fitz instructs us on we should pursue our dreams. With relentless faith. Believe and yes, we can move mountains! And move our weighty burdens over them as well. Yes, they are painstaking and for every inch gained, we lose two more. Yes, there are casualties. For ourselves and for others. And yes, nobody believes you can really pull it off, but in the end, you shall have your vindication as did Fitz. Caruso on the Amazon? Watch and believe!
Fitzcarraldo is the fourth, chronologically, of the five celebrated films upon which Werner Herzog collaborated with Klaus Kinski, and it... Read more