Monday, July 06, 2009

Fitzcarraldo: Conquistador Of The Useless

"If we're gonna do this...let's do it in style."
Director Werner Herzog's 1982 film - Fitzcarraldo - was based loosely on an actual person - Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, a Peruvian rubber baron who died at the end of the 19th century. Klaus Kinski delivers a typically intense performance bringing an element of Teutonic sangfroid to his character's dizzying passions. It's a brilliant film and won Herzog the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, or Fitzcarraldo as the natives pronounced it, had a head full of dreams and only wanted to bring the famous Italian opera tenor - Enrico Caruso - to the Peruvian jungle. But first he had to build an opera house...

...and to do so would require loads of cash. Can the end justify the means? Can it ever be acceptable to exploit a native culture or pull a 300 ton boat over a mountain in the name of "civilization"? Herzog thought this was analogous to film making and he adopted Fitzcarraldo's moniker "conquistador of the useless" in his vain pursuit of artistic perfection.

Eventually, the best laid schemes of mice & men are overtaken by events and in an ironic commentary on colonialism, Fitzcarraldo ends up being manipulated by the very natives he thought he had subdued.

But in the end the film gets made, the boat makes it to the other side of the mountain & the show goes on...and on...and on...

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