Bros. Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor
on the true story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald,
Werner Herzog's FITZCARRALDO is a remarkable
film... but not because it's an example
of truly successful filmmaking. No, this
film is remarkable for one reason, and one
reason only... what the director attempted
and accomplished while filming.
Now maybe I'm giving you the
wrong impression when I use a word like
"remarkable." I guess that word
gives off a positive notion. No, what Herzog
attempts and accomplishes in FITZCARRALDO
is the very antithesis of what I believe
about cinema. Instead of making entertainment
for the masses, or even entertainment for
a small core of viewers who will take hold
of the film and keep it as a personal prize,
Herzog has gone and created a film simply
for himself a film for the sake of
The real Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald
was a wealthy Irishman who made his fortune
by figuring out how to ship rubber over
a previously insurmountable piece of land.
He realized that a riverboat could be disassembled,
carried over land from one part of the Amazon
to another, and then put back together.
Indeed, this is a brilliant solution to
an incredible task, and Fitcarrald (as the
natives called him) made a fortune from
Herzog, however, was not satisfied
with this story, and instead blew his film
up into epic proportions. Instead of merely
mimicking the task performed by the real
man, the director instead had the cast haul
a three-hundred-and-twenty-ton steamboat
up a mountain on a grade two times as steep
as that of Fitzcarraldo's crew. Oh, by the
way, did I happen to mention that the boat
was INTACT! This works out to be ten times
the size and weight of the real-life task.
This is not filmmaking, this
is, as screenwriter Ron Oliver would call
it, "wanking." Cinematic masturbation.
Pure and simple. When critic Pauline Kael
says, "He [Herzog] thinks he's producing
art because he turns the making of a film
into such a miserable, difficult struggle
for all concerned," one can almost
see Klaus Kinski saying the same thing.
Only with more expletives.
Oh wait! I knew I was forgetting
something... Kinski. Yes, K2 plays the title
character here, and one wonders if the real
man possessed the same maniacal and insane
personality that the actor infuses him with.
In the opening scene, Fitzcarraldo and his
"girlfriend" have rowed for two
days and nights down the Amazon in order
to see the great Enrico Caruso perform.
As the two talk their way into the sold
out performance, we catch a glimpse of the
manic energy that K2 is able to bring to
a role. His passion is there, the rage,
the just barely controlled frenzy. Too bad
that this is one of the few instances where
Kinski really shines through. During the
rest of the film, he walks around, orange/yellow
hair thrust in all directions like a maniacal
Tommy Stinson, rolling his big eyes at the
camera and mugging at every chance he gets.
This is too bad, since the
story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald could
have been made into a great film, instead
of the egomaniacal spectacle that Herzog
foists on the public.
When Fitzcarraldo says, "I
am the spectacle in the jungle," he
NOTE: An in depth and
scathing review of this film can be read
in the Pauline Kael book, Taking it All