Joe McGovern
May 09, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Burden of Dreams

Current Status
In Season
Les Blank

We gave it a B+

”I live my life or I end my life with this project,” renegade director Werner Herzog vowed on the set of his jungle epic Fitzcarraldo, in which a 19th-century iconoclast attempts to drag a 320-ton steamship over a steep Amazonian landmass. Herzog’s death-defying endeavor (executed with the help of an indigenous Indian tribe, not special effects) is the basis for Burden of Dreams, Les Blank’s lyric chronicle of the film’s four-year evolution. Regarded as a standard-bearer for making-of pictures — largely because Herzog proved a more captivating study in obsession than his subject — Dreams pairs nicely with Herzog’s own introspective My Best Fiend, about Fitzcarraido‘s madman star, Klaus Kinski. Blank’s unobtrusive style — ”You don’t push your subject,” he commentates, ”you wait and wait and wait” — observes nature’s wrath as a metaphor for artistic torment, culminating with Herzog pontificating, ”The birds here don’t sing, they just screech in pain.” EXTRAS In a 2005 video interview, Herzog reasserts his gloomy worldview; but Blank’s 1980 short Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe — a leather boot served with onions, garlic, and hot sauce — adds a solid helping of levity.

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