I was actually sort of excited to watch today's movie, although I didn't want to admit it. Mostly because explaining Herzog and Klaus Kinski to my co-workers is pretty difficult. I was stoked, though - I love both of those guys, and I was really excited to see another Herzog epic full of madness and strange. I would think that he would have had enough of the jungle after Aguirre, but he masochistically went back to drag a 320-ton boat up a hill. I know that he's a big believer in locations, that there is something magical that they can bring out, and after seeing more than a handful of his films, I'm a believer, too. The jungle might be awful, but it made an amazing film, and the harsh conditions surely brought out some neat (and crazed) performances.
The film's plot is usually just described as it's most climatic, infamous part. A rubber baron, Fitzcarraldo (the native's mispronunciation of Fitzgerald) is told he can claim some rubber trees, so that he can use the money to build an opera house. The reason no one has yet used those trees is because they are basically unreachable - locked in by land on one side and crazy rapids on the other. He notices a small looking piece of land connecting two rivers near the trees on the map, and he decides he can get to them by forcing his boat over the land. He gets a giant, 320-ton steamer and sets off with his crew, and uh, tries to push a heavy boat up a 40 degree, tree-covered hill-type thing. It sounds sort of boring, but because it's Herzog and Kinski, it's pretty insane and fantastic.
I know this is probably information most people know, but there aren't special effects in this film. They were really out there on the river, really floating around on that giant steamer. More importantly, Herzog really pulled that giant boat up the steep hill. It's pretty tense to watch it, because I knew the whole time that it could have just flattened the whole crew. It's insane to do something like that. It's also pretty awesome.
I love that this movie has a slower pace, too. I think I was just writing about how Herzog is really fascinated by characters and by image. Of course, his style is no different here. He takes his time with the plot and the pacing, because studying his characters and their surroundings is so much more interesting than jump cuts and fast pacing. He seems so...obsessive to me, in a good way. Like, he's obsessed with adventure and danger, obsessed with beautiful images and characters, obsessed with people who are obsessed, be them his creations or actual people. I just like to sit back and watch what he is interested in, because I find it so interesting, too.
This is so frustrating, I want to write more so badly but I really have a lot to do at work tomorrow and I can't go in sleep deprived. I loved this movie. I love Kinski - he was so perfect for this part, and did an incredible job demonstrating the obsession that Fitzcarraldo had while sticking to a crazy vision. I loved that Herzog shot on location, and that he didn't use special effects, making the movie incredibly dangerous but really fascinating and tense to watch. Watching a fake boat get pushed up a hill is sort of boring, but knowing that it really could have come crashing down, murdering the crew, added, obviously, a considerable level of tension. It's just such an awesome movie - another sort of anti-adventure, where there isn't really any climax or triumph. There's a lot of interesting story behind how this movie was made, as well, told through a documentary and a book (probably going to buy the book before I got to bed, yay impulse purchases!), some of which Ebert writes about in his essay. It's worth reading his essay to get some of these stories, if you're interested in that. Ok. Need to stop writing. I'm sorry. This movie just worked so well for me, and I personally fell in love with it, and I think it's right up there with Aguirre for me. But that's just me, of course.
Have any thoughts on Fitzcarraldo? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Fitzcarraldo
Buy it on Amazon
Also, check out this weird "Baron Herzog" wine I found on sale, which I drank while watching the movie. It was ok. I was more concerned with thinking about what Herzog would think about my behavior.