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Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Widescreen)

Dieter Dengler , Werner Herzog , Werner Herzog    Unrated   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Product Description

An incredible tale of courage and survival against impossible odds. The man's name is Dieter Dangler. He was born in the Black Forest of Germany. As a child, he watched his village destroyed by American warplanes, and one flew so close to his attic window that for a split second he made eye contact with the pilot flashing past. At that moment, Dieter Dengler knew that he needed to fly.

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting May 1 2004
By A Customer
Director Werner Herzog is obsessed with obsession. Practically all his films feature protagonists in the grip of a passion so powerful that it creates ruin for them and everyone around them. Yet it also creates a sort of tragic grandeur. The viewer feels that, in some strange inexplicable way, it was worth all the pain and suffering involved.
Since his falling out with the major movie studios in his native Germany, Herzog has restricted himself to making documentaries (they're a lot cheaper to produce than dramatic films like Fitzcarraldo or Aguirre), but he brings to them the same passionate commitment and haunting poetic sensibility that informed his famous dramas.
Here the subject is the German-American pilot Dieter Dengler, a man who, as a little boy, fell in love with flight when he made eye contact with the pilot of an Allied plane that was strafing his Bavarian village in WWII. At the age of 18 he moved to America and eventually became a Navy pilot, only to be shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. Captured by Laotian guerillas and handed over to North Vietnamese soldiers, he endured unbelievable suffering and made a brilliant, heroic escape from a POW camp. Herzog takes Mr. Dengler back to the jungles of Laos to re-enact his ordeals. All this is intercut with scenes from his comfortable home on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, as well as his quaint little hometown in the Black Forest of Germany. Mr. Dengler is a charming, garrulous raconteur who hardly ever interrupts his fascinating, rapid-fire narration. During those rare moments when he is overcome by emotion and falls silent, it is deeply moving for him and for us. He has clearly suffered much in order to fulfill his dreams of flight. His obsession caused him tremendous pain, but it also saved him.
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This is simply an astonishing film from Herzog. For those who are familiar with Herzog, he has once again found a character - in this case Dieter Dengler - who becomes more and more fascinating upon closer examination. Herzog's films always have the sense of being impressionistic -- he throws the images up on the screen, and they may not always follow each other in a linear fashion, but they nearly always have a sustained, cumulative effect that, by the end of the film, is deeply emotional and troubling.
In this film, the good natured subject starts talking at the beginning and never stops -- Herzog has found someone perhaps even more voluble than he is -- and the audience is perfectly set up by his cheerful good naturedness and lucid observations, because by the end of the film we discover just how unimaginably damaged this person has been by life. The unfolding final images of the film are completely striking in the usual Herzogian sense (if you've seen something like "Lessons of Darkness" you'll have some sense of what to expect), but the meaning is ambiguous: is this a kind of heaven for little boys that love to fly? Or is this a hi-tech graveyard ...
Like Herzog's best (e.g. Even Dwarves, Aguirre, Nosferatu, Lessons and My Best Fiend), you simply cannot take your eyes off this movie.
Have fun!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Herzog fans only Nov. 18 2002
I have mixed feelings, even though I am a declared Herzog's fan. It's not a [bad] movie, don't get me wrong. It's very well done, like all Herzog productions - pictures, music, atmosphere etc. - no dissappointments here. First I thought it was Kinski that was not here. Well, his absence is certainly challenging to both the director and a viewer, but on the second thought no, it sure is not Kinski that misses here. I am simply not sure if I like the moral concept of the movie. War, abuse, violence - I am against too, but it should have been sad less straight-forwardly than just "war is bad, violence is bad, those guys are poor". He doesnt say that of course, but you can feel it - and it makes the movie sound like a Dangler's confession, really, and I dont feel well in a priest's shoes. Then I thought it could be a good documentary, but somehow Herzog cannot keep a necessary distance, he is obviously engaged while reportage should keep a colder distance and not be so charged with emotions, which makes the movie lose out on artistic atmosphere. So? I think buy it only if you know what you are doing. There are better Herzogs out there to start with first. You can always come back later.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you, Werner Herzog Jan. 27 2002
By Anita
As the documentary begins, we hear Werner Herzog's voice telling us that there are events in some people's lives that haunt them forever, but that if we pass these people on the street or in their car, we would never know it, for they appear normal. That in part is what this movie is about. It's also about how a dream might come to us and take hold of us, and how if we are determined to make the dream come true we can never know where it will lead, just as we can never fully understand why the dream came to us in the first place.
We first see Dieter in his house atop a hill outside of San Francisco (he has lived in America for 40 years; the film is in English, there are no subtitles). He talks about how important doors are to him, that he can never take them for granted because when he was in the prison camp he was not able to open or close any doors. He talks about always having plenty of food in the house, even storing extra in the basement, because he never wants to go hungry again.
Then we are in Germany, in the small town where he grew up. He watched planes flying over his town as a boy during World War II. One flew very close to his upstairs window and from that moment he knew he needed to fly. He says he didn't want to go to war, he only wanted to fly. Yet the airplanes he saw as a child, the ones that created the dream in him, were war planes. This is not a simple story. Dieter came to America when he was 18 years old, with no money, speaking only a few words of English, and almost immediately joined the Air Force. But he never got near an airplane. Over time as he learned how things work, he figured out what he needed to do. He moved to California and went to college, living out of a VW van. Then he joined the Navy where at last he learned to fly.
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