Monday, March 12, 2012


If you're a fan of the documentary Hearts of Darkness, you should check out Burden of Dreams. Francis Ford Coppola's awful experiences in the Philippine jungle just might pale in comparison to Werner Herzog's in Peru.

While shooting Fitzcarraldo, Herzog indeed seemed to be cursed. When a huge portion of shooting was complete, he lost his star Jason Robards to a punishing amoebal infection. Robard's co-star Mick Jagger had to part due to Tattoo You tour obligations, and Herzog was forced to go to his backers and beg for more money and time. He was so impressed with Jagger's performance that he had to cut his character from the film and re-write entirely, replacing Robards with his "best fiend" Klaus Kinski and starting from scratch. These problems were only the beginning.

Herzog contends with intertribal politics, rumors that he wants to repeat earlier German racial atrocities in the Amazon basin, Catholic priests who advise him to provide whores at his camps, three rusty river steam boats, environmental catastrophes, oil and mineral and logging companies, the Peruvian military, plane crashes which wipe out crew members, arrow attacks, sickness, insects, serpents, a flat soccer ball, engineers who think his plan will kill dozens of natives, a Brazilian TV star, and Kinski. He tells his backers that if he can't complete this project, he will be a "man without dreams. I refuse to live my life that way."

Of course Herzog maintains his jolly disposition for half a decade in the jungle, giving cheerful pep talks about Art and Beauty and Meaning:

I find Werner's musings endlessly entertaining. I recommend this film even if you've not seen Fitzcarraldo.

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