For Werner Herzog’s 80th birthday, Artie presents one of the lead director’s most memorable films: the extraordinary adventure “Fitzcaraldo,” which almost led to Kinsky’s death.
One of the biggest names in German cinema is celebrating his birthday: director, author and occasional actor Werner Herzog. The director has been in the field for six decades, spanning drama, thriller, horror, and informative, but mostly grueling documentaries. But one movie has recently risen well beyond Herzog’s fame thanks to its conflicting and almost insane production history.
This is exactly what is shown on free TV for Herzog’s 80th birthday: Art premieres historical adventure masterpiece “Fitzcaraldo” tonight from 8:15pm. Then, starting at 10.45pm, Art will screen Herzog’s documentary “Flucht aus Laos,” also set in the deepest forest. The documentary is about a Vietnam War veteran from the Black Forest who, under the supervision of Herzog, faces his own trauma at the original locations.
Fitzcarraldo: madness over madness
Early 20th Century South America: Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (Klaus Kinski) is a cocky eccentric and failure is not an option. Passionate opera lovers want to build an opera house in the middle of the forest. However, due to his bankruptcy, he seeks support from his girlfriend: brothel owner Molly (Claudia Cardinale). On her advice, a stranger known as “Fitzcarraldo” acquires a seemingly worthless, almost inaccessible land on which there are industrially exploitable rubber trees. To do that, however, Brian must get there first. So he buys an old steamer that the aborigines have to drag over a mountain by muscle power…
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A crazy intent leads to a crazy idea, to the improbable realization that another crazy idea must serve – hence it is also based on real events! This massive but massive adventure was inspired by the antics of arrogant businessman Carlos Fermin Fitzcarald. Not content with artistic liberties, which is not alien to him even in documentaries, Herzog went beyond the original events in terms of madness in many respects!
Because while Fitzcarrald gave the order to move his steamboat in parts A to B, the Fitzgerald’s ship, weighing tons, is being towed through the woods as one piece. This applies to the film’s narration, as well as to a large extent to the reality of photography. Herzog saw this as necessary both for visual strength and for capturing the fatigue and madness in the characters’ faces.
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He was originally supposed to star in Jason Robards, Lee’s play The Song of Death, but six weeks after shooting he fell ill and was replaced by Klaus Kinski. This only added to the film’s intensity and passion – and madness. After all, at this point in time, Kinsky and Herzog already had a well-established, technically fruitful, but also very strained relationship with each other. A powder keg, so to speak. The shoot in the woods was like a torch thrown there forcefully.
Whether it’s through clips from behind-the-scenes material that German and international media use at every opportunity, parodies, or parody: Klaus Kinski’s tantrums during the filming of “Fitzcaraldo” are part of German (popular) culture and general cinematic knowledge. had become. So much so that Kinsky’s annoyance is now more famous than the movie itself.
A lust for murder and a thirst for adventure
However, “Fitzcarraldo” deserves to be seen independently of the nature of the Kinski collie. No matter how well he remembered that during Kinsky’s tantrum, an additional person who was also a local tribal chief approached Herzog and offered to kill Kinsky. An offer that Herzog says he almost accepted. Fortunately only “almost”. Because despite all the similarities with reality: Herzog not only documented Kinsky’s real anger. A compelling, complex and impressive performance can be experienced in the final movie.
This unfolds a hypnotic effect and gives the title hero weak sides despite all the snoring paranoia. More so by Kinski, ‘Fitzcarraldo’ reveals its astounding influence through Herzog’s visual storytelling: pictures weigh a thousand times more than words here. For example, when the aborigines stare at the title hero at the most varied moment and the question initially arises as to whether they admire or condemn him. Or in the wonderful and visually stunning moments when the impossible dares into the deepest forest.
Ultimately, in Herzog’s hands, the action’s ornate moments become tragically oppressive operatic horror. – Until they maintain their intense suspense, it expresses itself unexpectedly. At least by genre standards. Meanwhile, it is only natural for Herzog to tickle every element of fear, anxiety, and tragedy from a startling and exciting moment. In “Fitzcarraldo,” this meshes beautifully with Kinski’s bold performance and surreal mystical touch inherent in this story. It’s debatable if that’s the best of Herzog. But he is the best duke to step into his world. Or to celebrate them on his birthday.
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