Reviews of Fitzcarraldo
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As screened @ Cinemuse
Dare to dream the impossible… but at what cost?
In order to fund his dream of bringing the opera into the South American jungle, Fitzcarraldo (Klaus Kinski) looks for profitable new ways to reach the jungle’s lucrative rubber resources. But the only piece of land he can lay claim to lies on an inaccessable river which will require the herculean feat of moving a 300 ton steamer across a steeply sloped isthmus in the jungle. So with the underwriting of his lover Molly, (the beautiful Claudia Cardinale), a successful brothel owner, he buys a steamer, raises a crew and sets off.
The film has without any doubt great artistic merit. Herzog constructs several monumental scenes in this trip through the jungle. He gradually builds suspense as Fitzcarraldo and his crew progress further into the jungle and is haunted by the drumming and chanting of an invisible native tribe. A signature moment in the film has Fitzcarraldo putting his phonograph on the stern of the boat and playing Caruso, as Kinski’s demented eyes stare out in wonder, pride, fear and anticipation as the tenor shares enlightenment with the jungle’s inhabitants. Fitzcarraldo’s single mindedness is clearly a metaphor that should give us the courage to persue our dreams.
However, the question cannot be ignored, “At what cost?”. When Fitzcarraldo/ Herzog recruits hundreds of real natives to the clearly destructive task of hauling a 300 tonne boat over a jungle mountain, the metaphor inevitably becomes a bit clouded. Is Herzog aware of the ironies he presents the audience? Does the director share Fitzcarraldo’s indomitable and obsessive spirit; does Herzog really believe that art should be allowed to exact any price for its realisation? Or are we simply supposed to be awed that he actually had the natives use a crude pulley system to pull the boat over the mountain? At what point does the persuit of art become self-indulgence?
Whichever way you swing, the jury is still out regarding who qualifies as the bigger megalomaniac: Herzog or Fitzcarraldo.
Interesting facts about the film:
Klaus Kinski was a major source of tension, as he fought with Herzog and other members of the crew and greatly upset the native extras. In his documentary My Best Friend, Herzog says that one of the native chiefs offered to murder Kinski for him, but that he declined because he needed Kinski to complete filming.
I just saw ‘Fitzcarraldo’ this week for the first time, and was absolutely captivated by it. I think it’s most reedemable quality is the fact that it’s very subtle and authentic, yet more epic than almost anything I’ve seen. Most impressive is that everything is 100% real in this film, no special effects, no trick photography, and Herzog achieved this and presented it flawlessly given the nature of the production set backs and tribulations that occured during the creation of this film. The film is timeless, and has now become one of my top favorites.
On a side note, after watching ‘Fitzcarraldo’, I of course had to see ‘Burden Of Dreams’. It’s amazing how much Werner Herzog’s ambition and determination making this movie parallels Kinski’s character and his dreams.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Epic in scope and undoubtedly slow (it didn’t bother me one bit, but I can see where people come from saying this), Fitzcarraldo explores man’s foolish attempts at heroic feats. The sheer simplistic plot may leave people wondering how something like this can span over two hours, although I’m sure some people might think the movie was shot in real time, as one friend told me that it felt like we were watching it for days.
On a sidenote, Klaus Kinski is the fucking bee’s knees. His eccentric character, blaring Caruso at any chance he gets, is nothing but pleasure for my eyes. I think that Kinski and the phonograph is the best combination I have ever seen in a film. The rest of the cast is great, including all the helping Amazons.
And then there is the steamboat. Seeing the steamboat being pulled up the side of the mountain is nothing short of epic and will remain embedded in my brain forever and a day.
Werner Herzog is crazy.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Seeing as how Fitscarraldo is by far one of his best, I wonder if maybe the appeal of Herzog’s films is that of an incredible spectacle that more or less really happened, that he decided to film. Granted, the reality of it is amazing, but if the wonder of pulling a boat over a mountain in the Amazon is what makes this such a great film then Fitzcarraldo qua cinema is sort of a gimmick.
This isn’t to say that it isn’t a visually interesting picture, but it’s one that becomes so meandering when it isn’t focusing on its awe-inspiring mantelpiece, one thinks that maybe it could have been shorter, and that maybe some of its thematic elements are so disparate as to make the entire film scatterbrained in terms of intentional storytelling. The ending/resolution sort of ruined it for me as well. Yes, he does bring the opera to Iquitos…in some way.
Still the acting is pretty great, and if you find Fitzcarraldo charming as a character than you probably love Herzog himself for the very same reasons.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.