The madness and cruelty of a dream; the artistic dream, the creative dream, the "civilising" dream, the theotic dream - in the end any dream. The other side of the coin is of course the debased absurdity of no dream at all. For a complete experience, to always be accompanied by the alternate ("real") universe version: Burden of Dreams.
Fitzcarraldo's ambitions, at the very least, don't EXACTLY include exploiting the natives for financial gain. There's a poignant scene of him questioning why they're even helping and he really mourns the death of two of them. It ends up being about a man who loves something so much he'd pull boats over mountains to be able to share it with people. That's pretty feel good, for Herzog.
Essential cinema. This legendary production was a tale of obsession, madness and exploitation on both sides of the camera. Herzog's madness/folly has been well documented as has the antics of Klaus Kinski on this production but it still resulted in classic cinema that is epic in scope and breathtaking in execution. ' The proof is ...that I saw it with my own eyes...'