Culture Your Ass: “Burden of Dreams” [Herzog Trilogy]

Written by Barfoot September 21, 2011

This is the second article in the CYA: Herzog Trilogy. If you have not already, please read the first on “Fitzcarraldo.

“Fitzcarraldo’s” production was not only choatic and eventful, but it was also extremely long with setback after setback. It is acatully documented that in order to keep sanity  in his cast and crew, isolated in the deep Amazonian jungle, Herzog paid for live-in prostitutes for everyone including himself.  And yes, many of the crew were married, including Herzog. All of this and more indeliable facts of the incredible production are captured in the second film of the Herzog Trilogy, a documentary by Les Blank named “Burden of Dreams.”

Les had worked with Herzog two years prior in filming a short documentary called, “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.” Werner had promised to then first time director Errol Morris (2003 Oscar nominee) that if he could finish the film he had been working on, Gates of Heaven, he, Werner Herzog, would eat his own shoe. Subsequently Errol finished his first film, starting an astonishing career, and Herzog ate  his own shoe.

After this, Les Blank had been in contact with Herzog at the beginning of Fitzcarraldo’s production in 1980. Originally the main character was not cast as the crazed Kinski. Instead, the part had actually been split into ‘Fitz’ and his assistant Wilbur, played by Jason Robards and Mick Jagger respectively. Unfortunately, Jason came down with dysentery and Mick Jagger left. Kinki was then hired to fill both their shoes, and he did so — quite well I might add.

The reason why “Burden of Dreams” is second in the Herzog trilogy after “Fritzcarraldo”, is because it follows the failure yet persistence of a man making a movie about a man who experiences failure yet persists and succeeds. This films shows that reality is always present in films no matter how fictional. This reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s idea of anti-mimesis in ‘The Decay of Lying” that life imitates art.

You need to watch this movie. It’s one of the first documentaries to showcase the stoic and enigmatic director which is Werner Herzog. And finally, once you watch this you’ll get an even clearer view of the relationship between Kinski and Herzog; the topic of our last film in the trilogy, “My Best Fiend“.

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