THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 77: FITZCARRALDO

by Laurent Kelly


Fitzcarraldo (1982) – Director: Werner Herzog  Screenplay: Werner Herzog   Starring:  Klaus Kinski, Claudia  Cardindale, Jose Lewgoy  OSCAR COUNT (0)

SYNOPSIS: An obsessed opera lover has a dream to build an opera in the jungle. His mad adventure to fulfill this ambition requires him to attempt to make money in the rubber business and to accomplish this goal  he must somehow haul an enormous river boat over an intensely steep mountain with the assistance of some unlucky Indians.

Fitzcarraldo is a film where the term suspension of disbelief needs no introduction. The film’s protagonist is a man chasing a seemingly impossible dream who is driven to madness in the process. Similarly Fitzcarraldo was a film which on paper seemed impossible to  make and which almost drew everyone on set to insanity as they tried to complete it. The most striking similarity between director and the lead character is that they never lose hope no matter how dire the circumstances may appear. This similarity presents the film’s enduring charm as we watch a character achieve set-back after set-back on his epic, boat journey whilst never losing the drive to succeed with his dreams carrying him forward at all costs.

The most staggering aspect of the film is its authenticity which gives each set-piece an almost documentary-like sense of fascination and heightens our connection with the characters. When we see everyone struggling in vain to lift a boat over a mountain we can appreciate every inch of willpower because we know it is basically real emotional and physical struggle on display. It is also thanks to Kinski’s mad, enigmatic lead performance which adds great  credibility to such an intense and gripping journey.

This is no-nonsense, intense, bravado film-making with a rawness to the sets, sound, performances and cinematography which lends the film a pulse that is rarely matched in more mainstream offerings.

DID YOU KNOW? Herzog initially cast and shot footage with the lead pairing of Oscar Winner Jason Robards and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

 

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