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a hybrid documentary of an incredible, relentlessly reckless story of film-making, and of a little anthropology too
Quinoa198416 December 2006
Werner Herzog, the filmmaker behind Fitzcarraldo that the director Les Blank is documenting (in part) with his Burden of Dreams, says that he has no interest in making a documentary about the Natives that are all around throughout the filming, who are apart of the cast as extras and also do labor. I wonder if Blank had intended to make his documentary with them as well, but here we have Burden of Dreams going between states of mind, of one mind-set being one of the most troubled and ambitious auteur projects of the past half century in film, and another mind-set being the people. In a sense, that line Dr. Lecter quotes from Marcus Aurelius in Silence of the Lambs comes to mind- what is it's nature? In this case, the 'nature' is of not just one specific thing but a few: what is the nature of the jungle (or rather the nature of nature), the nature of a tribe of people who could see this film crew and this director with his insatiable visions as something quite alien, and vice-versa at times, and the nature of film-making in general, particularly a film that by the dictations of the script and the wills of its director demand to go for the impossible. It's almost no wonder at one point that Herzog says, "I shouldn't make films anymore, I should be in a lunatic asylum."

While not everything that could go wrong on a film goes wrong on Fitzcarraldo- the making of it I mean, not the film, of which I've yet to actually see myself- but it comes close. Along with Hearts of Darkness and Lost in La Mancha, Blank's film ranks as a contender for showing the most chaotic film production imaginable, but perhaps outdoes the others with Blank's purer skills as a documentarian. One might almost hope at times that Blank might editorialize, but there's none of that here. The narration as well just gives the facts as if reading out of a film magazine. And what's extraordinary though is that you don't need to see Fitzcarraldo to understand what the film's about through this one. The story is, as Herzog describes, about opera in the jungle, and how an obsessed opera fan (played by Klaus Kinski) decides to lug his ship over a mountain so he can build an opera in the jungle. Soon, however, Blank shows that this very act becomes an even more daunting task/metaphor than Herzog might have intended, but never do we see him decide to just give up. "I live my life or I end my life with this picture," Herzog says.

It would be one thing if Blank just looked at the film-making process from start to finish with Fitzcarraldo, and I imagine Blank probably had enough footage to make for an even longer film just covering the odds & ends of filming. But we as the viewer soon come to realize that to make Fitzcarraldo requires an understanding of the people behind it, not just the main man behind it, but of the tribe. It's interesting to note that the natives Herzog uses the first time around show one side of the 'nature' of what comes in filming in foreign territory: they attack the film crew, forcing Herzog to find a new location. This first major set-back is only covered briefly early on in the film, but it fascinated me how Herzog still remained undeterred, even though it ended up taking him another year to settle on the final locations. Then Blank turns his camera on the natives lending their support (for more money than they usually get with the usual labor they work for), and it's done sometimes with the same care of getting great glimpses of the culture, of what habits and customs are with them (like the alcohol/fruit that's a given for them), and how the tensions start to rise as the film backs up. Blank's camera is terrifically poised in these moments, and he ends up also getting a fine comparison between the film crew itself. Only Kinski, who I would think would be the only person more of interest, is usually left out, which is disappointing.

But the real excitement is seeing the daily struggles of filming, and how the boat-over-the-mountain metaphor becomes apart of this struggle, be it something small like getting a rubber-skewer right (which is very funny), or in getting that toughest of shots at the "magic hour" of the dusk. And the problems keep mounting, until what we see is a filmmaker almost too reckless for his own good, yet perhaps for his own sanity as well. I can't imagine what might have happened to Werner Herzog had he not taken that final shot, or if he had, like Coppola to an extent with Apocalypse Now, sort of succumbed to the jungle's dangers like a Conrad character. What we end up seeing of Herzog is perhaps a man under the duress and total stress of film-making- or total control, who can say- but even when he's at his bleakest statements, it's never boring or pretentious to hear what Herzog has to say about the jungle or the people or to see how he directs. And around Herzog, and that giant boat, and the natives and the jungle, Blank creates the kind of behind-the-scenes documentary unique, where psychology and anthropology get brilliant put into the context of 'filming dreams', as it were.
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More than a documentary
tssnpc30 August 2005
I originally wondered why the Criterion Collection would choose to release this documentary. I knew that Herzog was a cinematic titan, and that the filming of Fitzcarraldo was supposedly a journey of it's own, and I even believed that the filming of a 30 ton ship being hoisted over a mountain deserved a documentary, but why would a prestigious DVD house choose to release this among the likes of Rashomon, The 400 Blows, Band of Outsiders, etc. After watching this film, it becomes very evident as to why Burden of Dreams deserves the criterion treatment. Les Blank's film does a better job of portraying the insanity and spirit of Fitzcarraldo than the film itself. The similarities between the character Fitzcarraldo and Herzog himself are endless. Despite Blank's poetic filming of the amazon jungle, despite all of the conflicts the cast and natives encounter, and despite the brilliant documentary footage displayed, the heart of this film is the the essence of cinema. This movie is about film-making and the art of it; it's passion, it's plight, it's entirety. When Herzog closes the film by stating, "It's not only my dreams, it's my belief that they are your's as well, and the only distinction between me and you is that I can articulate. and that is what poetry or literature or film-making is all about. it's as simple as that. I make films because I have not learned anything else. and I know I can do it to a certain degree. and it is my duty, because this might be the inner chronicle of what we are, and we have to articulate ourselves, otherwise we would be cows in the field." You truly begin to understand this man, and this film, and cinema itself. Strongly recommended!
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Fascinating and Troubled Experience
Rodrigo_Amaro10 July 2011
If I'm not mistaken Roger Corman once told to Francis Ford Coppola before making his mandatory tour-de-force "Apocalypse Now" to not go to the jungle film this movie. He went through countless troubles and challenges, almost thought of committing suicide and three years later he released his masterpiece to the world, winning lots of praise, money and awards and mentions in lists of best films ever made. After him, other directors went to do the same trying to make their dreams come true: Ruggero Deodato, Roland Joffé and Werner Herzog, the latter having one great similarity with Coppola: both films they made were also followed by a documentary revealing the troubles of the production from beginning to end; "Apocalypse Now" is followed by "Hearts of Darkness" while "Fitzcarraldo" is followed by "Burden of Dreams", an documentary directed by Les Blank pointing the semi-disastrous filmmaking of one of the greatest films ever made.

We are guided by Herzog and a female voice over that tell us the unfortunate series of events that surrounded the filming of "Fitzcarraldo" during four years in Peru (I was disappointed by the fact they didn't show what happened in Brazil, where they filmed some scenes too but I guess the major problem was in Peru). From possible attacks of Indians who disliked the film's production in their territory to the point of threatening the crew, then moving to another location; the day-by-day of shooting in complicated locations and with many different cultures; the forced departure of two of the main actors (Jason Robards and Mick Jagger) which caused a delay in production since they had to film all over again; an aerial accident that left some serious victims (this wasn't well explained) these and more are among the several problems encountered by everybody involved in "Fitzcarraldo".

But the problem that gets honorable mention is the one that concerns putting a 300 ton steamship over a hill, pushed by a bulldozer. That was really complicated to make, people got injured with that and after failing in the first attempt, the movie was delayed for one year until they finally made it right. And also sailing with the same boat over rapids that damaged parts of it and injured members of the crew as well. Here's a dream that almost became a nightmare and a heavy burden to carry...literally! Just reading my words in here is not enough, you gotta see with your own eyes how painful and exhaustive was to shoot "Fitzcarraldo". But when you see Herzog's film you are rewarded with one of the most beautiful and poetic masterpieces of all time. And to think that he said that after that film he would never direct any film again...but he went on and made many other works.

Now the criticism: the difference between these documentaries lies in the fact that the one related with Coppola's film was something with beginning, middle and ending, very well structured which is something that this film failed at some parts, and the reason why this happened is simply because the director didn't wait one essential advantage that "Apocalypse Now" had: the test of time if a work will be relevant in the years that passed and in years to come. When the movie ends we keep asking ourselves if it worth all the while to go through enormous difficulties. They couldn't say if the movie was well received by public, the money spent vs. the money earned, those things. "Burden" was released practically simultaneously with "Fitzcarraldo"; "Hearts of Darkness" was released 11 years later, so that they could look back and have some proud over their work. The language barrier wasn't respected in terms of presenting everything to viewers, at least in the version I watched, where German, Spanish, Portuguese and other dialects are spoken throughout the film but there's no caption to translate what people are saying.

I liked the insights made by Herzog about the jungle, and about taking chances in order to make dreams into reality means to him. Everything is well presented, the fascinating behind the scenes of "Fitzcarraldo" was very cool to watch but more interviews with actors should be included (the one with José Lewgoy is the most interesting when he tells about acting makes him feel an complete person, and the instruction he gets of Herzog in how to act in a certain scene). And "Burden of Dreams" is not only about problems, it's about not giving up of a dream even if takes forever to be made real, fighting the most dangerous adversities. Sounds like an Hollywood film but that was very real just like the real Fitzcarraldo at one time placed a steamboat over a hill. Only after seeing this you'll understand the power "Fitzcarraldo" has over its viewers. 10/10
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Werner Herzog as... Himself
Polaris_DiB27 April 2006
Werner Herzog. If you've seen one of his films, you're probably wondering "Okay, what's with this guy?" If you haven't seen one of his films, you probably have absolutely no interest in this film, so I suggest you go see one of his films then return to this page and see this film after you see his film and think, "What's with this guy?" This movie follows a movie of his called Fitzcarraldo which is a mix of the true-life account of an Irish man who founded a city in the Amazon jungle and the tale of Sysiphus, the Greek myth about the guy in Hades who had to carry the heavy rock to the top of the mountain, only to have it roll back down again at the end of the day.

In typical Herzog fashion, his movie begins almost to reflect it's very subject, as Herzog finds himself in the Amazon dealing with hundreds of natives, a dangerous political climate, unaccommodating weather, and having to take a three-story thousand ton ship over the same journey Fitzcarraldo would have to (all in the name of realism). In the meantime he discussing the importance of movies, his own fascination/love/hatred of the jungle, and we see a film nearly self-implode many times over.

It's actually pretty grueling work to watch (as is pretty much most of Herzog's films), and Les Blank definitely shows himself to have an intimate understanding of the situation so that he isn't judgmental of Herzog but still able to reveal some of his more, let's say, quirky traits. Some more interesting subject matter is Klaus Kinski, who as you watch you can never tell if he's acting in a scene or just being himself.

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Devotion to cinema
moviemanMA23 May 2009
Werner Herzog's film Fitzcarraldo was one of the most daunting tasks to put on in cinema history. This documentary follows the making of that film and all of the troubles Herzog went through. Fitzcarraldo is a sight to behold and going back now I would probably have much more of an appreciation for it. This film follows Herzog through his passion to tell this story and the incredible almost unfathomable lengths he had to go through. I thought the film could have been a little more well rounded covering more parts of the production more closely, but it still shows the grand scale of the film, and that is what I wanted to see.
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Not as good as I was hoping
zetes9 March 2001
Such interest in Fitzcarraldo was sparked in my mind that I was compulsively forced to purchase the DVD version of it. It was fascinating, a near-masterpiece, I would say. And I desperately wished to see the documentary about its making, Burden of Dreams. Well, probably a year after I first saw Fitzcarraldo, I came home one night to find Burden of Dreams on the Sundance Channel (praise god for this station!). I had missed about 8 minutes, but, oh well, I sat down to watch the rest.

Unfortunately, it did not reveal much about Fitzcarraldo. I had read about the problems Herzog had during the filming, and this is basically what Burden's focus is. The documentary does not go deep enough, though. I would say about a quarter of it (its running length is just over 90 minutes) is made up of actual scenes from Fitzcarraldo with maybe a short paragraph to describe the setting and maybe some small bit of behind-the-scene narrative.

Another section of the film is made up of interviews with the cast and crew. This should have been the lifeblood of this documentary, but it was not. Herzog's own interviews were interesting, but it is more or less him complaining because things are not going his way (which he has a right to complain about, but it isn't all that interesting to watch). He has this very silly monologue where he complains about how the jungle symbolizes the death of the world, when really the only thing symbolizing death is his dying film. Very disappointing is the documentarians' inability to get interviews with the cast. I was seriously hoping for some of Klaus Kinski's patented insanity and also at least one interview with the great Claudia Cardinale. There was one tiny interview with Kinski where he complained about having cabin fever for being stuck in the cast camps for weeks at a time, completely justifiable, I would say, and there are no interviews with Cardinale (although she may have been interviewed before I started watching). It made me feel a little disappointed that no documentarians had been there to film Aguirre, the Wrath of God, where Kinski absolutely flipped out!

Never fear, though. There is one very good part of this film: it serves as an ethnographic document for the Indians of South America. Herzog rightly claims that their parts in Fitzcarraldo itself were not sufficiently ethnographic, since they were just doing what he was asking of them. But in the documentary, we see the Indians making masato, an alcoholic drink made of yucca and saliva, we see them playing games such as arrow catching, we even see an attack from a different tribe that believes that the Indians who are working on the film have come to attack them. All of this is extremely interesting. 7/10
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Worth seeing, but shallow
SlothNOIR3 October 2001
I saw this enjoyable documentary film in 1983 and have recently seen it again (2001) at the National Film Theatre in London, together with "Fitzcarraldo" and "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe" - sore bum!

In 1983 I thought it was brilliant and it was immensely valuable to get an insight into the tortured making of the film "Fitzcarraldo". Seeing it again, almost two decades later, I feel the film skims the surface as Les Blank seems to have little interest in drawing out what went on. He just observes and accepts the events at face value. Only Herzog is interviewed at any length and the burden of his dream(s) does become apparent as the film progresses, however there is virtually no comment from Kinski or the other actors. Les Blank might argue that the film is about Herzog's state of mind and his attitude to the production of Fitzcarraldo. In this, I think it is largely a success. To look for more from the film is perhaps to unfairly employ the benefit of hindsight.

I suspect my disappointment (relative) at seeing this again is the release of "My Best Fiend" in the interim. I find my memory conflating the two films, the piece about Kinski's "hate hate" relationship with the jungle (and almost everything else!) would seem more appropriate to "Burdens" but is in "Fiend".

"Burden of Dreams" and "My Best Fiend" would make a good double bill, giving a much more rounded impression of the context of the production of Fitzcarraldo and the relationship between Herzog and Kinski. If you are interested, try to see them both.
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Mildly interesting but it could have used a bit of editing.
planktonrules4 September 2013
I looked forward to seeing this film because in recent years, I have become intrigued by Werner Herzog's films. I am not talking about his traditional films--the ones loved by the critics such as "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" of "Fitzcarraldo". Instead, I have really come to enjoy the director's documentaries--and although he is known for his traditional movies, he has made tons of excellent documentaries.

I also was interested because I am rather familiar with the crazy relationship Herzog had with Klaus Kinski--as discussed in "My Best Friend Klaus Kinski". In it, Herzog talks about how much he hated working with Kinski--and yet he chose to work with him AGAIN on "Fitzcarraldo"--the film which is the subject of this documentary.

What you'll notice in this documentary by Les Blank is how seemingly cursed the production is as well as how Herzog's compulsive style make the filming VERY, VERY difficult. First, they had to stop the production due to border skirmishes between communists and the government. Then, the natives attacked and burned the sets! Add to that the loss of the original leading man after he became too ill to complete the film...and 40% of the film was already shot! Also, Herzog's script and insistence that they shoot the film in the most remote and unforgiving environment made things even worse. The film does a good job of chronicling these and many, many more problems.

While the film is a wealth of information for Herzog-philes, it is NOT a great documentary. Much of it is because the pacing is very uneven. Many parts simply should have been heavily edited as too many times nothing is happening or the shots seem amazingly extraneous (such as a lengthy shot of a couple natives on a raft). Plus, although Herzog talks a lot--the rest of the folks don't. I really wanted to hear from the new leading man (Kinski) and the rest.

My advice is to only watch this film if you are a film student, Herzog groupie or if you are very, very tolerant of a somber and occasionally dull making of film.
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"Even the stars in the sky are a mess."
rmax30482315 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I've seen "Fitzcarraldo" and listened to Werner Herzog's audio commentary, and now I've seen Les Blank's documentary on the making of the film. "Fitzcarraldo" itself I found to be about one of a kind. "Burden of Dreams" is equally interesting but in a different way.

Herzog's comments on "Fitzcarraldo" deal mainly with the events we see on the screen. How did the crew get the boat up the river, what travails did they experience, what were the Indians like? "Burden of Dreams" tells us much more about Werner Herzog, the director and the man whose dream "Fitzcarraldo" is about.

I think maybe if I were to compare Blank's documentary to the work of another contemporary director it would have to be Terence Malick -- "Badlands," "The Thin Red Line." The reason is that there are so many scenes in the work of both men in which nature itself intrudes, independent of human transactions. Blank's film has shots of plants and animals, sometimes illustrating a point in Herzog's narrative, sometimes in a kind of stylized silence. I have never seen a film with so many large and colorful butterflies, so many garish parrots.

Herzog -- looking comparatively young -- is surprisingly thoughtful and articulate. He speaks German, English, and Spanish. "Fitzcarraldo" itself was filmed entirely in English because it was the most common language among the cast. Sometimes what he says is funny and sometimes his dicta have tragic implications, yet he never laughs. There are moments when he describes his Weltanschaung when he sounds half insane. You ought to hear him sitting there, describing his feelings towards the jungle and its relationship to humanity. I can't quote him but I can describe it roughly.

He's been shooting at an extremely isolated location. If you want to get out of the jungle from where he and the camera are now, you have to travel between 500 and 2000 miles, depending on your direction. The jungle is a foul butcher shop of disorder. Everything is mixed up. Even the stars in the sky are a mess. Compared to the jungle, human beings are like a few fragmented phrases in a book full of stupid sentences. If Herzog believed in God, he would believe that God created the jungle in a rage. Still, Herzog doesn't hate the jungle. He loves the jungle. If I had to compare Herzog to another artist, it might be Beethoven.

I admit I was laughing like hell by the time he was through with this unforgettable diatribe. I'd never heard anything like this from a man who was intelligent, talented, and in possession of his faculties.

Not that he's any sort of misanthrope. He's concerned about the plight of the Indians he's worked with. They have no clear claim to the land they've always lived on. Lumber, oil, or rubber interests can move in, clear the forest, boot off the inhabitants, and virtually own the territory. The Indians are interested in the money he's paying him but they responded with more enthusiasm when he offered to help them attain title to their own land. He's worried about the fate of the Amazon rain forest, too, and for good reason.

He admits that he is not an ethnographer. The Indians he filmed were told to groom themselves in a certain way and to perform roles. And here they all are -- Herzog included -- up to their knees in mud, shot at (and sometimes hit) with arrows from less acculturated tribes, sloshing around in a yellow river, being bitten by insects, with no electrical power except that provided by a noisy generator, and nothing to amuse themselves with except beer and some prostitutes that the local Franciscan missionaries advised be brought into the camp. And I happen to be a cultural anthropologist, and I'm thinking of my own field work on a couple of Indian reservations and an island in the South Pacific, and I'm silently thanking God I didn't choose to live with the Indians who live in that unfinished wilderness. The only aspects of the location that appealed to me at all were the beer and the prostitutes. I'm entirely certain I would have come back an alcoholic with some kind of dreadful disease that turns your nose into a turnip.

Whatever the location lacked in civilized appeal was more than made up for by the documentary's explication of Herzog's character. What a man -- philosopher, artist, and mensch extraordinaire. The feature, the documentary, the quest, and the feat itself, all memorable.
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Documentary 101
rob_jacks17 November 2001
Altough it has been years since I have seen Burden of Dreams, this movie has always remained etched in my memory as one of the greatest documentaries about the making of a film ( Fitzcarraldo). Although it is moving at a snail's pace, just like Fitz. it never ends to fascinate. It is almost as if the director wants the progression of time to happen in real time. The film depicts the insanity of Herzog's obsessive film making with passion and understanding. An absolute must see. As is Fitzcarraldo. On as scale of 1-10, this one ranks 11 (see "This is Spinal Tap")
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Walls in the Jungle
tedg7 June 2008
Here's a remarkable phenomenon.

"Fitzcarraldo" is to my measure a special film, meaning that it evokes in me a profound and lasting response. Indeed, I have it on my list of films you really must see (if you take me seriously). Elsewhere, I have celebrated this filmmaker, and how the twists in his being seem to (at least in this period) have created work that matters.

This is a documentary on the making of that film. Its made by a good filmmaker himself. It tells the tale, an interesting story. And it features two segments of Herzog on the scene, speaking coherently and somewhat poetically of the disruption that is the jungle. Its disturbing in its own right.

So what's wrong? Something significant, I think. Watching this takes much of the richness, the lush smell, out of "Fitz."

It explains it. It flattens it. It surrounds it with a story that is clear and thus takes away the space it naturally has for us to surround it with our own story.

Not all great art works this way, but some apparently does: it designates holes that we readily fill with ourselves and stitch together with the story our life might have been, or might not have. The design of "Fitz" is such that it contrasts the real (meaning "natural") with the stylized (meaning "civilized"). It has a simple spine that we can read and ignore while we understand instead the invisible lace of inner lust, lonely desire.

We need the space that surrounds it. We need the madness, the jungle, the lack of containing story. Its what we fill in with the jumble of our own jungles.

Seeing this takes away the experience of "Fitz." Its not just another case of an encounter with a filmmaker being less rewarding than an encounter with his (her) film. Its a matter of story walls where there shouldn't be.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Burden of Dreams
Scarecrow-888 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Les Blank's document on the haggard and plagued production of Werner Herzog's masterpiece, Fitzcarraldo, burdened by disputes between tribes in South America, unfriendly weather conditions, engineering issues involving the ships used by crew and locals helping them during the troubled shoot, and the existential anxieties plaguing the brilliant visionary director. Seeing Herzog monologue about how concerned he is of what his people's influence on the tribes helping him and the crew could be and the painstaking work stoppage and downtime is absolutely fascinating...it is as if this thoughtful intellectual tap pours out, and the director just bares his soul. Just the experiences of those involved in the film as they happen, with glimpses into the beleaguered psyche of Herzog and the agonies of the environment when those making the film are held prisoner by a production halted periodically offers a compelling gaze into how vision and artistry articulated can come with a price, daunting and exhausting in equal measure. Particularly compelling is how Blank captures the tribal life and how Herzog intermingles with them, appreciative of their labor and aware of how his way of life could potentially poison theirs, in a moral dilemma about how to not leave a residue of influence, so that they continue to function as their own society. But the shoot, with all its difficulties, shows us that conveying realism using locations instead of studios can be detrimental and hazardous. It does seem that what could go wrong does.
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an exceptional documentary about behind-the-scenes film-making
grantt18 August 2000
Werner Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo" is a fine film which broke most artistic, logistical and financial conventions of good film-making. Herzog set out to take great liberties with the history of an historical character, a 19th century Irish Peruvian rubber tapper--and then, incongruously, abandoned the cinematic art of illusion to undertake some very dangerous filming in remote Amazonian jungles of Peru. One of the unfortunate consequences is that little of the danger is self-evident to uninformed audiences accustomed to illusion. That's where Les Blanks filled in the blanks with his extraordinary documentary, "Burden of Dreams"--an essential companion to "Fitzcarraldo". There are obvious comparisons to be drawn with Eleanor Coppola's "Hearts of Darkness", about "Apocalypse Now"--especially as a study of directorial obsession. Blanks's film reveals "Fitzcarraldo" to have been a much riskier and crazier project than "Apocalypse". This first class documentary should be in DVD.
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One for the fans
Leofwine_draca8 March 2021
Warning: Spoilers
A making-of documentary shot on location during the production of Werner Herzog's FITZCARRALDO. I'm a total Herzog fanboy so I adored this and my only complaint is that it's not as in-depth as I was hoping; there's an infamous Kinski breakdown that doesn't get covered and some other exciting things that happened that we don't hear about. Otherwise this is great though, with plenty of footage of Herzog himself sharing his thoughts with the camera; his famous speech about the hostility of the jungle is quite brilliant.
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Fascinating if not quite as emotional as I expected
runamokprods26 September 2012
I really enjoyed this. It's a fascinating meta look at film-making.

An obsessed, driven director (Werner Herzog) is trying to make an almost impossible film about an obsessed, driven man trying to do the same impossible thing the film-maker is trying to do – drag a 320 ton boat over a mile of forest.

Most people see this as an out-and-out masterpiece, which makes me feel I need to see it again. I found it always interesting, but less emotionally compelling than two other great films about difficult filmmaking dreams gone awry; 'Hearts of Darkness' about the making of 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Lost in LaMancha' about Terry Gilliam's never completed 'Man of La Mancha' film. There's a distance in this film that worked to a point, but kept me from being emotionally caught up in Herzog's dream, or fully understanding it.
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great insightful snippets
SnoopyStyle8 January 2016
Werner Herzog goes to the Amazon to film his jungle epic Fitzcarraldo (1982). He runs into competing native political organizations and is accused of exploitation of the local natives. The movie has a never-ending series of problems including the Herculean task of lifting a giant steamship out of the water up a hill.

There are unforeseen problems like the local political conflicts, health problems and weather. Then there is the all too foreseeable problem of moving a giant ship up a hill. This is a mess waiting to happen. There are also great local flavors like catching arrows competition and making fermented drinks. I actually like this making-of documentary more than the actual movie.
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Michael_Elliott11 March 2008
Burden of Dreams (1982)

**** (out of 4)

Incredible documentary from director Les Blank about the making of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. The Herzog film is one of the most amazing films I've seen and it's rather shocking, due to that film's troubled history, that a documentary was being filmed on it. In the Herzog film you realize that the main character played by Klaus Kinski was crazy because of what he was trying to do. In this documentary, you realize that Herzog was crazy for even trying to make this film.

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)

*** (out of 4)

Funny short has director Werner Herzog eating his shoe after losing a bet to a friend. The documentary does a nice job building up tension and there's some nice side talk about the importance of film.
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Cosmoeticadotcom7 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Les Blank's 1982 documentary, Burden Of Dreams, is a film that, like Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, follows the near-obsessive drive of a great filmmaker to bring a great film to fruition. In the latter film, Eleanor Coppola detailed her husband Francis Ford Coppola's will to bring Apocalypse Now to the screen. The former film details the similar drive that compelled German filmmaker Werner Herzog to make Fitzcarraldo. While the two fictive films are both great, the Coppola film is likely the greater film than Herzog's, but, as far as the documentaries are concerned, Burden Of Dreams far outstrips Hearts Of Darkness. The latter film is a good film, but there's nothing that lifts the film above the Making Of sort of documentary that's since become de rigueur with DVD releases. In short, the film is pointless if you've not watched Apocalypse Now. Not so with Burden Of Dreams. While not a perfect film, it acts as not just a Making Of film, but a film that details a good portion of the sociological and anthropological nature of the natives that Herzog and his crew lived and worked amongst. And, the reason for this may lay in the fact that Blank got a grant from PBS, and the film was originally shown on American television in a truncated 60 minute version, rather than the extended 95 minute long release from The Criterion Collection.

Burden Of Dreams is a very good documentary that does a rare thing, it illumines not only its subject matter, but all those things about its subject. That's a two for one deal Hollywood just doesn't make these days, and it's precisely why this documentary and DVD is such good viewing.
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Kind of slow but still good
DJAkin18 February 2006
I saw this on the recommendation of my brother Scott. It was very good. I liked this movie and it was interesting because I had just seen the Grizzley Bear movie that Herzog made. Very intense movie that stirred my soul. This is a commentary on a movie DIRECTED by Herzog about an OPERA HOUSE that was to be constructed in the middle of the Amazon. I believe that it was a horrible story idea but the insanity that took over Herzog proved worthwhile. Apparently this was a very good movie as well. At least on the IMDb it got a good review. Those natives in the wild Amazon were sure patient with the film crew! I suggest that anybody sees this.
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Werner Herzog Behind the Camera
gavin694220 November 2014
A documentary on the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's epic "Fitzcarraldo" (1982), showing how the film managed to get made despite problems that would have floored a less obsessively driven director.

Due to his use of long, uninterrupted takes, his rejection of scripting set pieces and his films' tendency to document without making overt arguments through narration, dramatic reinterpretation or other techniques, Les Blank's work has often been tied to the cinema vérité documentary movement. Blank, on the other hand, says he respects cinema verite, but is no purist.

This documentary is great not just for its interviews with Herzog, who is brilliant, but for showing footage featuring Jason Robards and Mick Jagger, which never ended up in the final film (as both men had to be replaced).
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Fascinating glimpse into Herzog's genius
Flak_Magnet10 September 2009
You will enjoy this movie the more you appreciate Werner Herzog. As a lover of Herzog, I thought "Burden of Dreams" was wonderful, but the film's true merits as a documentary are, admitingly, somewhat average. Herzog fans shouldn't miss this movie, though, and about a third of the film is devoted to scenes with him, while he and his team are on location filming "Fitzcarraldo." There are some priceless scenes in this documentary, particularly a few minutes of footage of Herzog and Kinski aboard the steamship during the famous scene when the vessel careens down the treacherous rapids. Herzog and crew had one shot at filming that scene, and watching their reactions while in the course of creating such a masterpiece is terrific. Herzog has some good dialog here, and, as always, his pontifications are intriguing and insightful. Herzog talks about art, the duty of filming his dreams, and the tribulations of such an arduous undertaking as "Fitzcarraldo." You'll learn a lot of cool behind-the-scenes stuff, and the end result should be an even greater appreciation for both Herzog and "Fitzcarraldo." Herzog and crew faced incredible problems: native Indian attacks, political intrigue, cast mutiny, and the dryest rainy season in recorded history. Like so many of Herzog's works, the story behind the film is just as interesting as the film itself, and "Burden of Dreams" takes you up close to this inspiring man during the high water mark of his incredible career. Herzog fans, this is one you SHOULD NOT MISS. ---|--- Reviews by Flak Magnet
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A Genius and Thrilling Documentary
framptonhollis11 October 2016
"Burden of Dreams" is far more than an average making of documentary. Instead, it is a work of brilliance; a memorable gem of cinema that just happens to be about the making of Werner Herzog's epic adventure drama "Fitzcarraldo".

The making of "Fitzcarraldo" was extremely difficult for a number of reasons: the seemingly biggest challenge being the moving of a steamship over a mountain. As "Burden of Dreams" goes on, we are faced with difficulty after difficulty and , in the end, it seems shocking that "Fitzcarraldo" was ever even completed! It didn't only challenge the cast and crew mentally, but also physically, and everybody behind the scenes deserves great recognition for being able to pull off such a task.

The interview with Werner Herzog are definite highlights. Towards the ending, there is one great interview with him in particular that has become the most well known scene in the documentary. "The birds don't sing," says Herzog "they screech in pain."

The documentary isn't only a dark real life drama, but also a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the native Indians that helped with the production. There are a few scenes that don't focus on the production of "Fitzcarraldo" at all, and instead thay document the lives of the natives. These scenes are almost equally good, and further prove that director Les Blank is not trying to make an everyday DVD extra, but, instead, an entertaining, excellent documentary film.
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One of the best documentaries ever.
afonsobritofalves28 October 2018
A very interesting documentary, which shows the various incidents that occurred in the film "Fitzcarraldo". With an interesting theme and a fun story. Highly recommend.
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"I should not make movies anymore"
theognis-8082129 January 2022
An obsessed German film director makes a film about an obsessed rubber baron in the Amazon. Werner Herzog has characterized himself as "Conquistador of the Useless;" clearly, lack of utility is one of several characteristics of art, but it is the sole focus here. The original Carlos Fitzcarrald transported a 30 ton boat in pieces from one river to another over dry land; Herzog's crew moves a 320 ton boat in one piece with manual labor. People could be killed or gravely injured. The background of this portrait overwhelms the foreground: the destruction on the Amazon forest and the extinction of the native peoples should be of greater concern than the problems of a filmmaker. A bulldozer is used to clear swaths of land which Herzog promises to purchase and donate to residents, who already wear clothing manufactured elsewhere. I'm sure it's one of the delights of being a film director that you get people to do things that they would not ordinarily do, but art has greater requirements.
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A filmmaker's apocyalpse...of another kind
William-1123 October 1998
I was intrigued to see this documentary based on Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo" and was not disappointed. Made only a couple of years after the Francis Ford Coppola epic, there are similarities in the mad drives these directors display. Werner Herzog is chronicled from the begining when disasters strike (losing lead stars Jason Robards and Mick Jagger) to air plane crashes, native troubles, and natural disasters. Herzog seems quite mad taking his crew deep into the jungle for inspiration and lead star Klaus Kinski barely offers any commentary, probably to avoid showing his hatred for Herzog. This is a wonderful documentary, and I believe it won a British Academy Award for its efforts.
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