For nearly five years, acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog desperately tried to complete the most ambitious and difficult film of his career-Fitzcarraldo, the story of one man's attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle. Documentary filmmaker Les Blank captured the unfolding of this production, made all the more perilous by Herzog's determination to shoot the most daunting scenes without models or special effects, including a sequence requiring hundreds of natives to pull a full-sized, 320-ton steamship over a small mountain. The result is an extraordinary document of the filmmaking process and a unique look into the single-minded passion of one of cinema#s most fearless directors.
Though he has long been admired for his rigorous and almost ritualistic approach to filmmaking, and while he has created a number of unforgettable narrative films, it is likely that Herzog will be remembered for his unique approach to documentary. In fact, in hindsight, what appeals most about his narrative films is the documentary elements -- where reality interjects itself. Consider Heart of Glass, for example: the narrative is interesting but obscure, but what is stunning is the document of an … more