Let me start off by saying that choosing my favourite 5 Herzog films was hard enough but putting them into an order was doubly hard. Also note that although I will give a brief synopsis of each film, it certainly doesn’t justify the artistic merit of the films themselves.
5. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly is a documentary that tells the story of German/American Pilot, Dieter Dengler who, during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Loas by the Pathet Lao. He was taken to a prison camp in North Vietnam where he was starved and tortured until the day he escaped.
Dieter Dengler is the driving force of this film, we learn about his curious habit with doors and his permanent supply of emergency food under his house. Herzog decides to take Dengler back to the place of his capture to re-enact the scenes of his life. Dengler does not crave fame nor recognition for what happen in Vietnam, when asked a question about what he thinks of people who call him a hero he says ‘”Only the dead are Heroes, I’m not a Hero”
Herzog directed a feature based on the actual events, ‘Rescue Dawn’ starring Christian Bale. I would certain skip Rescue Dawn and just watch Little Dieter Needs to Fly, it will be a far more satisfying experience.
4. Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Scene from Fitzcalrraldo.
‘Fitzcarraldo’ is the semi-biographical tale of a would-be rubber baron named Fitzcarraldo. Fitzcarraldo wants to build an opera house in his city of Iquitos (Peru). This requires money, and having one major failure already under his belt, the bankrupt Trans-Andean Railway company. Fitzcarraldo decides to get into the rubber business as it’s the biggest business in Peru. The only land available to rent off the government is deemed ‘in-accessible’ by other rubber barons, as the river next to it contains treacherous rapids. Fitzcarraldo plans is to carry the 300 tonne steam boat a couple hundred metres across the rainforest from a adjacent river.
This film is in itself a documentary of itself as the filming is the tale of Herzog’s own journey to film this epic story. Herzog actually moved the 320 tonne ship, without special effects, through the rain forest, where as the real ‘Fitzcarraldo’ moved a 30 tonne ship by taking it across in peices and reassembling it at the desired location. Scenes that were shot on-board the ship while it crashed through rapids, resulted in injuring three of the six people involved in the filming.
Klaus Kinski acting is phenomenal he really brings the character of Fitzcarraldo to life. This is surely one of his greatest roles.
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