Werner Herzog had a dream to make the movie I reviewed yesterday, Fitzcarraldo. It’s about a man who wants to make his dream of building an opera house in the middle of the jungle a reality. Part of doing so is to pull a ship over a mountain in the Amazon. As Herzog found out, some dreams can slowly turn into nightmares. Les Blank documented it.
After writing the movie Herzog managed to get it financed and had found the actors that would star in it, Jason Robards and Mick Jagger. They started shooting, but as they also had to work with the local people they fell victim to politics and a war between Peru and Ecuador. Shooting had to cease and when Jason Robards became ill and couldn’t return and Mick Jagger had to start touring it seemed that it was impossible to go on. Herzog was very driven though and found a new actor and a new location, far away from “civilised” areas. It meant a very hard time for cast and crew as there wasn’t much to do and the heat was sometimes unbearable.
Herzog had a hard time keeping his financiers and when they also ran into issues when trying to pull the boat over the mountain it seemed that would have been the end of it. Herzog managed to keep it all going, but this documentary shows how difficult it must have been for him. At one point he talks about the jungle around him and how it seems to be a place where God didn’t finish his creation or that it was created with anger.
I watched this after seeing the movie itself and it made me respect the movie even more. There were so many problems that plagued the production that it’s almost a miracle that we are able to watch it. Another director might have given up, but Herzog had the drive to finish what he started, not giving up on his dreams, just like the main character of the movie.