For Fitzcarraldo, a 1982 film about a man so obsessed with his vision that he dragged a steamboat over a mountain, German director Werner Herzog decided that the best way to convey his protagonist's obsession would be to drag a steamboat over a mountain himself. And so he did, causing some to question who was more obsessed, Herzog or his film's hero. Getting the boat over the mountain was only part of Herzog's problems, however. After shooting nearly half the movie, star Jason Robards took ill, forcing the director to bring in favorite star/archenemy Klaus Kinski and start over. As fine as Robards would undoubtedly have been in the role, it's hard to imagine anyone but Kinski in the film. He stars as a turn-of-the-century lover of opera who hopes to build an opera house in his remote South American village, rich with rubber money but lacking a place for Caruso to perform. To raise funds, Kinski decides to lay claim to a remote piece of resource-rich land. Journeying there, he recruits initially resistant natives to fulfill his dream. In a long, slow, rewarding film, Kinski essentially plays a benevolent but no less monomaniacal variation on the character he played in Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath Of God, but rather than conquering the New World, here he seeks to bring culture to a land with a culture and a way of its own. Whether his dream is foolish, noble, or misguided is left entirely up to the viewer, though it's not hard to see where Herzog's sympathies lie. It's also a film worth seeking out on DVD if only for its typically eye-opening commentary from the always-revealing Herzog.
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