What I watched: Fitzcarraldo (1982)

How I watched it: Blu-Ray

Snacks: Cream soda & kale slaw
fitzcarraldo-movie-poster-1982-1020467270Synopsis: A renaissance man has a dream of bringing the opera to the jungle. In order to do so he faces the hurdles the landscape puts before him and devises his own, rather crazy, ways of overcoming the physical and political challenges jungle presents.

Why I watched: I’m not sure why I got it in my mind this summer suddenly that I had to see this movie again, it may have been my sister’s recent trip to Central America, or it could have been any of several other things. But I figured if I was going to go out of my way to see it again, I might as well seek it out to buy because it is a movie that I really quite liked and would like the opportunity to share (ie, lend out) to people if I can. Anyway having bought it it sat on my shelf of movies-to-watch for a few months before my copy of Burden of Dreams finally came in the mail and I could sit down and have my long-awaited double-feature.

Notes: Because I watched this directly following Burden of Dreams and because I have seen the film before (and because I forgot the film was in English and I therefore wouldn’t be reading subtitles), I decided this time to watch it with the filmmaker commentary that the Blu-ray offered (in fact, a commentary featuring both director Werner Herzog and his long-time producing partner and half-brother Lucki Stipetic, plus a moderator asking questions from time to time).

When Fitzcarraldo is seeking funding partners for his massively ambitious project, his justification when they ask him why he would go to such lengths to build an opera house in the middle of the jungle to which he responds, “I’m doing all of this because I have a dream,” which, according to Herzog’s commentary is the whole point of the film and the whole reason he (Herzog) went through the hell of making this movie. If a person has a dream and does not articulate it, they are not improving the world and might as well be a sheep grazing in the valley (this is a sentiment he discusses in Burden of Dreams).

Also, I had forgotten the film was in English because Herzog and Kinski are both German and neither had done as much English-language work at that point (early 1980s) than they have since, so part of me assumed it was German-language. But there must also be something about the film that betrays a German sensibility, because Herzog says that he considers the German-dubbed version the more “authentic” version of the film, despite its being filmed in English. As he was saying this (in one of the film’s early scenes) I scoffed to myself. But in hindsight, and given my own lapse in memory surrounding the film’s language, I totally buy it.

Another note coinciding with Burden of Dreams, he mentions in the commentary for Fitzcarraldo, that Les Blank who he was friends with and admires, was only with them (the Fitzcarraldo crew) for 5 weeks, out of nearly 4 years of production, and therefore didn’t capture nearly enough to provide a full picture of what the filming of Fitzcarraldo was really like. But he was glad it was made, even if it only showed a small portion of that period.

There was a long period of this commentary wherein Werner and Lucki seemed to be competing to complement each other, not under any comedic pretenses. It was both annoying and refreshing at times.

Recommend: I know I haven’t said much here about the film itself, but by gosh yes, you should see it. I mean you should see what they do on this film. They could never, would never make this film today and that alone is reason to see it. Spectacular.


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