Burden of Dreams (1982)
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Watch right after Fitzcarraldo. If anything it underscores Herzog's mad visionary brilliance.
The documentary is incomplete without this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75ADI9p2wHY
While I just watched this film for the first time, I was already familiar with a certain quote that, I believe, originated here. I'd heard it before in My Best Fiend, Werner Herzog's (the "star" of this film, Burden of Dreams) documentary centered around Klaus Kinski, and it's one of my favourite quotes ever:
"Kinski always says "[the jungle is] full of erotic elements," I don't see it so much erotic. I see it more... full of obscenity. It's just... and nature here is vile and base. I wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see... fornication, and asphyxiation, and choking, and fighting for survival, and growing and... just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery, but it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery and... the birds are in misery. I don't think they sing, they just screech in pain."
That quote, and especially the last sentence, says everything you need to know about this film before you see it. Herzog's mind became a deep, black pit of agony and frustration. He couldn't be happy if he gave up the dream that was "Fitzcarraldo," but the process was so profoundly soul-crushing that happiness became a lost cause.
Watching this fascinating film brought me to wonder if Herzog had known from the beginning that filming Fitzcarraldo would be hell on earth. Werner Herzog is the kind of man who might really experience something akin to his films' subjects so as to really make his films genuine. Fitzcarraldo is a sprawling, wild, and somewhat aimless movie. It's not, I don't think, a great movie so much as it is a testament to Werner Herzog's psychotic hubris, and what I love most about Burden of Dreams is that it lays bare Werzog's delusions of grandeur. It is the opposite of Fitzcarraldo because it presents this quest as it is, with little-to-no narrative of any grand triumph. The film doesn't even end on a terrible happy note. The film has been completed, but Herzog's trials aren't necessarily validated. They just are, and you can make you own mind up about he and his adventure. Hell, I'm not certain Herzog himself ever felt any validation. Fitzcarraldo ends happily, but I still have to wonder if Herzog ever found much happiness in the experience, or if he ever even wished to.
Disclaimer: I like Werner Herzog a lot. He's a crazy man, and I love him for it. And I loved this movie.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #57 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Documentaries of All Time
This movie ranks #266 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films: 1001-2000
This movie ranks #309 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #386 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
This movie ranks #442 in Doubling the Canon