Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2001 12:41 pm
Location: Carlisle, Kentucky
Fitzcarraldo - an embodiment of Werner Herzog's work
Fitzcarraldo - I have seen the documentaries My Best Fiend and Burden of Dreams, but I never have watched the actual movie from beginning to end. I was prepared for something sluggish and slow paced. To prepare, I abandoned my La-Z-Boy for a kitchen chair that, while comfortable, is not so plush to invited napping through some of the quieter parts.
Fortunately, I found none and was delighted to find Klaus Kinski in a likeable, heroic role.
He plays Barry Sweeney Fitzgerald, an opera lover but more importantly, a dreamer whose ambitious visions often outstrip practical considerations and logic. The intensity of his dreams, and his willingness to try and accomplish them, are intoxicating. He and his dreams capture the heart of Molly (Claudia Cardinale), the very successful owner of the local brothel in Iquitos (Peru?), who cater to the handful of rubber barons who have carved up land ownership of those areas capable of being reached with the technology of the time (1890s-1900, roughly). Fitzgerald, or Fitzcarraldo as he is known among the local populace, has tried and failed to run a Trans-Andean railway from the center of the jungle to the navigable parts of the Amazon river. The project, whose costs far surpassed his means and lacked the engineering and technical know-how to bring it off. He is ahead of his time and that contributes to his persistent financial failures.
When he suggests to the rubber barons that he would bring grand opera to Iquitos and searches for investors to help realize this project, he is ridiculed. And considering that, apart from the rubber barons, Iquitos is an impoverished working class community with people unlikely to afford, much less appreciate, opera, the practicality of such an idea seems ill-conceived at best, if not fundamentally stupid.
But Fitzgerald is one of these people who, upon being told no, merely digs in his heels and against all reason sets out to accomplish this task almost through sheer force of his will.
He decides that he will open a competing rubber plantation in an area of Peru that is, one, isolated by nearly unnavigable rapids and, two, controlled and populated by the Jivaro, a notoriously anti-social native tribe. Using financing provided by Molly, Fitzgerals buys a dilapidated steam boat from the one rubber baron who enjoys watching ambitious men's dreams go up in smoke - it's good for a hearty laugh.
This sets the background for an adventure that takes Fitzcarraldo up an unexplored artery of the Amazon River with an untrustworthy crew and, soon enough, forms a mysterious and perplexing relationship with the Jivaro.
It is the second time Herzog and Kinski are joined together by the Amazon river and, in terms only of the movie, it is another striking success. Kinski himself may have been a complete bastard whose temper flares led several tribesmen to consider murdering him, but the character he plays is sympathetic and intelligent and manages to keep himself and his comrades alive in the most uneasy of circumstances.
It is a triumph of a movie and one that I found was not a slog at all. Herzog's film crew have to be among the greatest of photographers of natural landscapes. Aguirre, Nosferatu, and Fitzcarraldo make incredible use of the natural world and convey, presumably, Herzog's fascination with it. One needs only review the trajectory of his career since Kinski's death to see a general theme arising from Herzog's movies and documentaries - man's hubris in his interactions with the natural world, their struggles to overcome it, their failures and their triumphs. Fitzcarraldo is an embodiment of Herzog's work.
Oh yeah, down here, I am considered the apotheosis of cool - Sewer Urchin
This is an appalling film. And for some of you, well worth your time - SSM
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