What I watched: Burden of Dreams (1982)
How I watched it: DVD
Why I watched: I quite like both this film and Fitzcarraldo and bought both recently but hadn’t sat down and rewatched them yet.
Notes: There are lot of sequences in this film that stand out to me. One thing that I love purely from a practical effects standpoint is the scene where they are actually processing raw harvested rubber the way it would have been processed a hundred years ago. Not something I would ever think about in my day-to-day life, but thrust in front of you on-screen makes me pause.
There is another sequence where the narrator describes the troubles the crew are having with their replica boat and now it has gotten stuck on a bank and the camera follows a pair of Peruvians just simply (and, more importantly, swiftly) gliding down the river past the grounded boat. What a great moment that captures so much of Fitzcarraldo and Burden of Dreams, so much that is thematically simmering beneath the surface of these films and erupts quietly in these little moments.
Herzog’s diatribe about the horrors and “overwhelming misery” of the jungle, “even the stars in the sky here look like a mess,” is a long and dark rant capped off by his saying how much he admires the jungle: “I love it against my better judgement.” Indeed, you would have to think between Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and Fitzcarraldo something is drawing this man to surmount terrible challenges and make these features in this unique and remote part of the world.
One of my final favourite scenes in this film which also, I think, encapsulates Burden of Dreams is the absolutely chaotic scene wherein Herzog chastises Klaus Kinski for how he reacted in a shot and Kinski screaming back his defenses while bandaging a crew member’s sliced hand. Both Herzog and Kinski who are yelling at each other are kneeling around this crew member who is slumped against the side of the ship’s bridge panting, and Herzog is taking swigs from the alcohol being used to disinfect his wound. It’s a narrative in itself.
This is a great film on it’s own or as a companion to Fitzcarraldo, one that has to make you appreciate Herzog himself and his work.