Burden of Dreams Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2012
There are a number of movies that people who think they want to make movies should see beforehand, and this one just might be the epitome of that.

Werner Herzog is, hands down, the most fascinating film director of all time. He just has all these qualities that elevate him, and subsequently his movies, into another realm. When he decided to make the highly ambitious film Fitzcarraldo, he also had it in mind to have Les Blank join him to film a making-of documenatry chronicling the film's shoot.

And the results are absolutely fantastic. There have been other movies about troubled film shoots, such as Hearts of Darkness about Apocalypse Now, or even American Movie, but they all seem to pale in comparison to this one, maybe just because of how difficult and troubled Fitzcarraldo's shoot was.

There was the problem of nature, logistics (such as doing everything practically, namely hauling a massive steamship over a mountain), countless delays, dealing with tons of Natives, dealing with geographical issues like red tape and potential civil wars, Herzog trying to deal with the force of nature that was the brilliant but difficult Klaus Kinski (this specific struggle mainly being addressed in the deleted scenes, which were actually taken from Herzog's documentary My Best Fiend), and the director's own massive ego, arrogance, determination, and increasing madness and cynicism.

It's not always flattering, but it's never sensationalist, either. It is simply showing things as they happened. Yeah, it's not always easy to watch, but it's so absorbing that it is hard not to. I especially love the unsubtle way that life reflects art/art reflects life, and the parallels with Herzog's real struggles being one in the same as the lead character's struggles.

If you ever wanted insight as to the sort of questions that can be raised concerning how far is to far when going for greatness and art, then you really must see this film. Or, if you just want to see the ultimate making-of document extended to feature length, then here you go.
Super Reviewer
½ August 3, 2012
The ultimate making of Documentary, far better than the other 'ultimate' doc Heart of Darkness. It's a shame Les Blank didn't film Wrath of God but then he may not have survived. A must for film makers, wannabe film makers, producers and Werner worshippers. "I'm duty bound to articulate our dreams as a film maker" - Werner Herzog
Super Reviewer
July 23, 2012
Plenty of documentaries are made about the art of filmmaking, but very few capture the drive/lunacy it sometimes takes to realize a vision like Burden of Dreams. Les Blank's film, in my opinion, does a better job of portraying the insanity and spirit of Fitzcarraldo than the eponymous 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 documentary footage displayed, the heart of this film is the essence of cinema. This movie is about film-making and the art of it; its passion, its plight, its entirety. Herzog closes the film by stating, "It's not only my dreams, it's my belief that they are yours 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." If you really let those words sink in, you truly begin to understand this man, this film, and really, cinema itself.

PS: If I ever make a tribute to the bat shit crazy Werner Herzog, I will definitely call it "Overwhelming Fornication."
Super Reviewer
½ September 13, 2011
I am not fully on the Herzog train but I certainly admire his drive. And by drive, I mean his lunacy of course. I had always heard that Kinski was crazy, but just listening to Herzog's words and how he pushes on in the face of every momentous setback really showed me that Herzog may be just as mad. This film documents not only the tumultuous production of his most famous film Fitzcarraldo, but also offers a look at how Herzog channels his madness into pursuing his dreams. It drags in some areas, but overall pretty fascinating for anyone interested in the man, the myth, the legend, Werner Herzog.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
An interesting documentary about the making of one of Herzog's movies, and about him in general. If you're a fan of his you will enjoy this more than I did.
Super Reviewer
½ October 4, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]"The Burden of Dreams" is an eye-opening documentary about the making of Werner Herzog's film, "Fitzcarraldo", which is about an opera lover who wants to invite his idol, Enrico Caruso, to perform in the Amazonian jungle. In order to do so, he plans strike it rich in the rubber trade.(Other people have commented on the similarities between Fitzcarraldo and Herzog.) [/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]Herzog brings his film crew and actors to a remote location in the South American rainforest but he faces delays, the loss of his first camp and the film's two stars leaving after 40% of the film has been shot.(Jason Robards to dysentary and Mick Jagger to prior commitments.) Bringing new meaning to the word perserverance(so much so, that he borders on being reckless), Herzog starts again with Klaus Kinski in the lead.(From film clips of Jason Robards in the title role, I think Klaus Kinski added a certain intensity to the role and you can see how the replacement casting might have changed the movie.) Throughout the whole process, Herzog aims to be as respectful to the indigenous population as possible, vowing to fight to help them gain title to their land.[/font]
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Super Reviewer
January 6, 2012
Makes you wonder how Herzog ever get the opportunity to make another film again. Shows the true arrogance of Werner in making a woefully epic disaster which could have been made more practically and with the same impact.
Super Reviewer
½ May 18, 2011
Somewhere near the end of "Burden of Dreams", Herzog stated that he 'shouldn't make movies anymore' after the emotional, physical and intellectual drain that is "Fitzcarraldo". Of course, Herzog never stayed true to his words as he still kept on generating great films after great films since. But this documentary, capturing the legendary filmmaker's seemingly inexhaustible grasp to his ambitions in the middle of an Andean disillusionment, provocatively shows Herzog in near surrender (his film career) and without regard to the future.

But ironically, throughout the film, Werner Herzog shows an unusually calm demeanor. Looking at the things he is trying to fend off at the time, the likes of turbulent rapids, malicious rumors and political power struggles (not to mention the almost biblical task of moving a steamboat up a hill), a feeling of despair creeping within is not asking much. But he never snapped, at least not on the verge of suicide. Perhaps that's a consolation.

Herzog, known for his deeply tranquil voice (especially in his numerous films where he incorporates poetic narrations), is quite unsurprising in his display of passiveness in an environment that demands otherwise. Hell, he even got shot in the middle of an interview and could not care less. But what Les Blank's "Burden of Dreams" has captured brilliantly is his internal descent into a void of questions and uncertainties. In many sequences, Herzog navigates through the natives' camps, treacherous terrains and dangerous waters seemingly animated by a mission and even carries a smile once in a while. But along those moments, in the middle of each and every scene and triggered by Blank's questions, we hear him speak out.

It's not one of those pedestrian interviews where answers can be immediate, quick and solid. In these particular scenes, with his thick German accent, his words flow out, eloquent, vibrant, even frightening at times. It's a combination of a poet's uncommon inner articulacy, an everyday glib of a wisdom man and the dark, declarative enunciation of a doomsday prophet. And through that, he exposes his mind and soul. A mind that is pessimistic and unsure. A soul that is anxious and insecure. But a wholeness that is awfully determined and focused.

Yes, he can quite see the finish line, but he can't go into a full run. Budget, time constraints, the force of nature, you name it. He is a man of ambition and larger-than-life aspirations and will stop at nothing to put those into fruition. But he can see, in the distance, the looming presence of the inevitability of failure. And it's quite clear.

"Burden of Dreams", although about the agony of filmmaking, can also be seen as a documentary about the generalized significance of personal dreams. "Without dreams we would be cows in a field, and I don't want to live like that. I live my life or I end my life with this project." Herzog said. From that point on, the idea of finishing the film ceased to be merely just associated with the succeeding post-production. It is his ultimate self-affirming test as a filmmaker and as a dreamer. But on one side, it's also his sense of closure. A sigh of relief, if you can still just call it that.

Now, who would think that Herzog's harsh exploits in the wilderness and a psychological flirt between lunacy and megalomania would root out from his consummate, against all odds passion for his craft? Coppola maybe, with Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" on one hand and a gun on the other.

"...I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment." Herzog said regarding on what he thinks of the Andean jungle. Maybe if you ask him regarding his devotion to finish "Fitzcarraldo", it will be the same answer. He just wanted it done, with his visions still intact, and more importantly, his sanity.
January 15, 2013
Les Blank's doc on the production of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo is grand. This gets inside the mind of Herzog and his vision for a particular film and is fascinating to watch.
August 29, 2008
I have yet to see Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo", but I seriously doubt that it will be anywhere near as interesting, as this documentary on the making of it.
November 18, 2007
This is the only case that comes to my mind where the' making of' movie is better than the movie itself.
September 14, 2006
The greatest documentary about a film being made. It's amazing that Herzog was even able to SURVIVE, let alone complete one of the world's best films.
½ December 24, 2014
Marginally more interesting and less frustrating than the film it documents
September 13, 2014
Never thought I'd see the day when Klaus Kinski was the voice of reason and Herzog was the insane one!
½ July 6, 2014
The back story of FITZCARRALDO is almost as interesting and as great as the film itself.
January 29, 2014
Watched this without seeing Fitcarraldo first. Even still it was interesting, but I would have probably enjoyed this more if I knew the reference material.
½ July 22, 2013
Among the very best "Making Of" documentaries. Obsession, frustration, danger, and isolation combine to create an increasingly volatile environment. I always keep Herzog's rant against the jungle in mind when looking at Herzog's profound-sounding narration in other movies; he could easily just be going off the rails again. And it's interesting to see Kinski stepping in as caretaker, cleaning up after Herzog.
February 14, 2013
He drug a boat up a mountain because it looked right!
February 6, 2013
No one will love movie making as much as Werner Herzog
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