photo manipulation by nacrowe
legendary german film director WERNER HERZOG is renowned for chasing extremes. at times his singular obsessive focus to get a shot has resulted in bypassing moral boundaries other directors would have long abandoned or outright not even considered.
his transgressive reputation is based in part on his self-produced films AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (1972) and FITZCARRALDO (1982), both statrring KLAUS KINSKI and both dealing with the extreme emotions of obsession and mania. here i will go into FITZCARRALDO, but no doubt I will cover the former in another later entry.
FITZCARRALDO relays true story of a fanatically industrious irishman attempting to build an opera house in the peruvian rain-forest despite several seemingly insurmountable technical obstructions. the climax of this film is the physical traversing of his steamship on land uphill so that he could traverse the PACHITEA RIVER from its neighboring UCAYALI RIVER. this is the height of insanity and HERZOG filmed it with the help of locals, some of whom died while making the film. in much the same way that the real-life FITZCARRALDO exploited the local population for his own ends, people have often leveled the same criticism at HERZOG himself.
if anything, this is a singular film with an epic performance by long-time collaborator KLAUS KINSKI in the title role. i'm absolutely ambivalent with this film in the same way i am with capitalism in general. i recognize fully that day laborers have toiled over the most of the food i eat, have been underpaid for the clothes i wear and bear the environmental burden for the technology i use and ultimately discard. i know there were costs and by consuming the product i am supporting its methods of production. i explored this dilemma earlier in my written piece on the artistic merits of LENI REIFENSTAHL's nazi propaganda films. with regards to FITZCARRALDO, i chose to view it as emblematic of the faustian bargain we are all a part of when tacitly buying into, pun intended, capitalism and its brutal, debased, inhumane underpinnings.
i highly recommend this film because it is artistically and morally complicated. you are amazed yet terrified by its production and real-world consequences.