My journey through Werner Herzogs history of films continue. Last night I finally took the time to watch Fitzcarraldo (1982) and month ago I saw Aguirre (1972). I’ll talk about the latter some other time and let us instead focus on Fitzcarraldo.
The film is about a very eccentric Irishman, Brian Fitzgerald (named Fitzcarraldo by the Peruvians, played by Klaus Kinski), who wants to construct an opera house in a small town deep in the jungle. After some failed projects, such as an trans-andean railway, Fitzcarraldo decides to make it big in the rubber industry in order to fund his obsession. His wife Molly (played wonderfully by Claudia Cardinale) is always supportive of his ideas, no matter how strange, and with her money they buy a big steamboat and a very inaccessible part of the jungle where there is much rubber to be found. To reach this part of the jungle, the boat with it’s strange crew must first brave indian territory where previous expeditions have met their demise. After that they have to pull the entire boat over a steep ridge in order get into another river. As you can realize the entire project is crazy.
Being my third Herzog film there is much I recognize from both Nosferatu and Aguirre. As with several of Herzogs films the german band Popol Vuh made the soundtrack – and what a soundtrack! They match the Herzogian language perfectly, which is even more true regarding the other films mentioned. Futhermore the long, lingering shots and the suggestive character of the film is something that Herzog use with great success.
To me the film is much like Aguirre but seen from a completely different perspective; Fitzcarraldo is full of creative innocence and impossible dreams (being challenged). Where Aguirre wants power and might, Fitzcarraldo wants play, beauty and happiness. They both want to break barriers and achieve the impossible but the motivating forces are very different.
In the end the film manages to generate a positive feeling while still raise some questions about the consequences of Fitzcarraldo’s “innocent dreams”.
I’ll try and write about Aguirre soon and then I’ll watch Cobra Verde, which I believe was the last film in which Herzog and Kinski worked together.