So, if like me, you ve seen Fitzcaraldo and Burden of Dreams and My Beast Fiend in addition to having read Kinski Uncut, is this still worth checking out The answer is an emphatic yes Yes all the way to Peru Herzog writes the way he speaks, in his own well I wouldn t say inimitable because people do pretty good impressions of his these days idiosyncratic, stream of subconscious cadence that bounds from topic to topic with patently illuminating levels of absurdity A dreamscape full of fist sized jungle spiders that lie in wait in the director s shoe, impossible filming conditions that test the sanity of veteran film crews, and a half goblin, half genius actor whose volatile tantrums seek only to draw attention to his own creative indolence, the greatest shame of all, though, is that there isn t an audio version of this book seriously, if someone started a kickstarter to generate funds to pay Herzog to read this book out loud, I d put money in today Without a doubt. One of my favorite films of the 1980s was Werner Herzog s Fitzcarraldo, about a 19th century Peruvian rubber baron who decides to bring the opera to the jungle city of Iquitos In order to do this, he must find a way of moving a largish steamship over a ridge that separates two adjacent rivers, the Camisea and the Urubamba Naturally, such an idea is madness on the face of it But Herzog did it, and the result is a film production that will continue to amaze people as long as films are being watched Almost equal to the film, however, is Herzog s journal of the making of the film, Conquest of the Useless Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo Although in form the book is theoretically a documentation of an insanely difficult film production, it is as much a series of vignettes of life in the jungle, dreams, tales of encounters with snakes, spiders, Peruvian Indians, strange fish and birds, jungle rot, illnesses and wounds, and whatnot Here is a brief example When I tossed a cigarette butt, still glowing, into a metal sewer grating, suddenly something like a snake shot up out of the damp, black sewer, seized the butt, dropped it again at once, and disappeared just as fast It was a very large frog.Here is another typical instance of jungle life Our kitchen crew slaughtered our last four ducks While they were still alive, Julian plucked their neck feathers before chopping off their heads on the execution block The albino turkey, that vain creature, the survivor of so many roast chickens and ducks transformed into soup, came over to inspect, gobbling and displaying, used his ugly feet to push one of the beheaded ducks as it lay there on the ground bleeding and flapping its wings into what he thought was a proper position, and making gurgling sounds while his bluish red wattles swelled, he mounted the dying duck and copulated with it.There were also many descriptions of problems with the cast and crew, particularly with Klaus Kinski, who played the lead After one of his crazier tantrums, a number of Campos Indians came up to Herzog and whispered whether he wanted to have the actor killed Kinski got wind of what was going on and immediately died down.This book is a classic and tells me about the area around the Peruvian headwaters of the than I have seen in any other source But then Herzog had made two films in the area In addition to Fitzcarraldo, there was the equally excellent Aguirre, the Wrath of God, also starring Kinski Also, this book gives me a good reason for never having wanted to become a film director I would have gone stark raving mad and would have had to be killed by the Indians out of spite. Werner Herzog Grizzly Man Is One Of The Most Revered And Enigmatic Filmmakers Of Our Time, And Fitzcarraldo Is One Of His Most Honored And Admired Films More Than Just Herzog S Journal Of The Making Of The Monumental, Problematical Motion Picture, Which Involved, Among Other Things, Major Cast Changes And Reshoots, And The Hauling Without The Use Of Special Effects Of A Ton Steamship Over A Mountain , Conquest Of The Useless Is A Work Of Art Unto Itself, An Ian Fever Dream That Emerged From The Delirium Of The Jungle With Fascinating Observations About Crew And Players Including Herzog S Lead, The Somewhat Demented Internationally Renowned Star Klaus Kinski And Breathtaking Insights Into The Filmmaking Process That Are Uniquely Werner Herzog, Conquest Of The Useless Is An Eye Opening Look Into The Mind Of A Cinematic Master I m glad that I ve not felt that compelled to HAVE to do something But I kinda relate in feeling sometimes like people around me don t give a shit and I m some crazy dreamer chick with a crazy dreamy look in her eyes But I also kinda wish that I had those visions in my head that had to come out in words and images I ve not felt the kind of righteous rightness that burdened me to create Maybe that s why I almost never remember my dreams Fucking crazy stuff I loved it Like the rest of life was seen through a story focus lens, splitting details away for their fevered qualities I don t think the stories were contrived If others wouldn t have seen it that way, well, they weren t Herzog I love the Destroyer song Virgin with a Memory It goes Was it the movie or the making of Fitzcarraldo Right on, Dan Bejar I forgot to mention the birds All of the other reviews detail a terrific entry from Conquest of the Useless damn now I can t talk about swimming with piranhas I loved all of the tidbits about parrots and I d try and guess what kinds they were based on the descriptions he gave There were ians and caiques my favorite kind of bird, pretty much I d lose my mind in the jungle I d make a caique my king and he would be a playful god Only I couldn t go all Heart of Darkness and rip the monkey s or bird s head off either that d be like Steerpike from Gormenghast, too Poor monkeys Weren t those songs by ex Genesis members enough. What else can you do but give this one two thumbs up The man hauled a steamship over a mountain in the There s nothing about that that isn t ridiculous, amazing, destructive, damaging, obsessive, incomprehensible, baffling, gratuitous, pointless, staggering, horrible, laughable, great.I ve seen My Best Fiend, Herzog s documentary about his relationship with Klaus Kinski, which contains a lot of footage of the making of Fitzcarraldo, the ship hauling movie Reading his diaries from the movie shoot recalled many of those scenes Kinski raving and screaming, Herzog looking drawn and dour, animals shrieking, machinery breaking in impressive and dangerous ways, a general aura of doom I remember Herzog narrating in his dolorous Teutonic accent over the sounds of jungle creatures, something like, People think the jungle is beautiful It isn t beautiful It s in agony The birdsthe animals, they are in agony I was ready to believe him, but after reading his diaries it makes even sense Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong There are military coups, political battles, bad media attention, deaths and injuries, disease, fussy American actors, equipment thefts, droughts, floods, alligators, and angst So much angst The jungle is not a happy place All that said, this is an amazing record of an amazing work Herzog never tries to explain the meaning of his vision the ship hauled over the mountaintop but he also never compromises it He works doggedly, miserably, past the point of all reason, to make the movie he wants It s as much an inspiration as a kind of warning Parents, don t let your kids grow up to be filmmakers Or if you do, make sure they have strong constitutions. Werner Herzog tells us in his preface, this book is not a collection of reports on the actual filming, and it is not a journal, except in a very general sense He refers to it as inner landscapes, born of the delirium of the jungle, but then says that he s not sure if that s really it either The book covers the period from June 1979 through November 1981 during the making of Fitzcarraldo and while it is filled with some of the struggles he endured while trying to get his movie off the ground, it is also a deeply personal account, suffused with his observations about the jungle, its people, the rivers, and his own relationship with nature, trying to find some insight into it all while trying to maintain a sense of calm as the leader of the enterprise One thing that I discovered in reading this book is that there are a number of similarities between Herzog and his character Fitzcarraldo, who is than once referred to in the film as the conquistador of the useless Both are dreamers, and both in their own way are lunatics, compelled by their visions At some point Herzog notes that his project and character have become identical, and certainly, there is no greater truth in this book.And while it s not a tell all sort of thing, if you re interested in such details as his frustration with Klaus Kinski, or what it was like to work with Mick Jagger and Claudia Cardinale, that s here too, but this book reaches much deeper highly recommended, especially if you ve seen Fitzcarraldo and Burden of Dreams. But in the film the geography has to be visible two rivers that almost touch, with only a mountain ridge between them, over which the ship has to be hauled Without that understanding the point of the story is lost says Herzog.In the jungle things can go wrong and everything that could go wrong did, in Herzog s case And people kept asking him, why can t we ditch the scene with the ship or fake it at least And he replies, because there is a metaphor there, without this metaphor there is no film So, what is the metaphor, they asked him I don t know, I can t express it with words but it is there And it is important, he replied.In my opinion, the metaphor of the ship being hauled over the ridge is open, it is all inclusive, that s why it is all important The metaphor has become in itself art It can become anything at all in each person s mind Whether you think it is about madness, human endurance, humanity, mortality, vanity, colonialism, the conquest of the useless, the burden of dreams you would be correct In a very introspective moment I thought it was about the divide between conscious and unconscious mind and you know what, maybe I was right maybe I wasn t, not important The metaphor is there for all to carry around inside them If the fleshed out metaphor was faked, it would have lost its power I have a feeling that in this movie Herzog has blended performance art with movie and they coexist symbiotically. All that is to be reported is this I took part. Leaving my musings aside, this book, the diary Herzog kept while shooting the film, is not about the film You will not find descriptions of how he did what and why It is a diary of everything else that happens while they shoot this film And you are left to wonder, how the hell did they finish shooting it, with literally everything going awryIn the face of the obscene, explicit malice of the jungle, which lacks only dinosaurs as punctuation, I feel like a half finished, poorly expressed sentence in a cheap novel It is also a diary of Herzog s astute observation of landscapes and innerscapes Funny and vaguely dreamlike. Once , despite all my attempts at fending it off, a shuddering sense creeps into me of being trapped in the stanza of a strange poem, and it shakes me so violently that I glance around superstitiously to see whether anyone is watching me. Does the monkey dream my dreams in the branches above me I ordered a beer, and my voice sounded altered, like the voice of a parrot imitating operatic arias The sun sank in an angry blaze For a moment, and for the only time I think I can remember, the earth struck me as motherly, covered with a decaying forest that seemed positively humble A large brown moth was boring into the smooth concrete floor as if it wanted to go down into the earth, and beating its wings so violently that the wooden sound it created blended with the electrical hissing and crackling of a dying fluorescent bulb overhead like a symphony from the depths of a ghastly universe, a universe readying itself for the final harvest.You would expect a colonialism in his approach, but there is none It struck me at how authentic his reactions and his relationship with the jungle became. The jungle, existing exclusively in the present, is certainly subject to time, but remains forever ageless Any concept of justice would be antithetical to all this But is there justice in the desert, either Or in the oceans And in the depths Life in the sea must be pure hell, an infinite hell of constant and ever present danger, so unbearable that in the course of evolution some species including Homo sapiens crawled, fled, onto some clods of firm land, the future continents. I looked around, and there was the jungle, manifesting the same seething hatred, wrathful and steaming, while the river flowed by in majestic indifference and scornful condescension, ignoring everything the plight of man, the burden of dreams, and the torments of time. A declaration I feel I should make is that I am a big fan of Werner Herzog, I like his good stuff and I also celebrate his failures There is meaning in them Or I find it The same with Cronenberg. Fear and Loathing in the Peruvian Jungle Werner Herzog s Pursuit of his Dream.I feel that it is a fairly safe statement that never has a film production been so fraught by so many factors political hurdles, extortionate local bureaucrats, wars between indiginous tribes, plane crashes, torrential down pours, drought, dried up funding, drunken extras, drunken crew, drunken actors, snakes, seperate media circuses involving Mick Jagger and Claudia Cardinale, snakes, and Klaus Kinski, to name just a few Herzog battles against his head of production, against the jungle, against illness, and against gruesome injuries to himself and his crew Mauch said he could not take any , that he was going to faint, and I told him to go ahead Then he thought he was going to shit his pants from the pain, but he could not decide between the two options, and in the end did neither Herzog, despite a prediliction for filming in extreme environments, is not a wide eyed lover of nature The jungle, existing exclusively in the present, is certainly subject to time, but remains forever ageless Any concept of justice would be antithetical to all this But is there justice in the desert, either Or in the oceans And in the depths Life in the sea must be pure hell, an infinite hell of constant and ever present danger, so unbearable that in the course of evoltion some species including Homo sapiens crawled, fled, onto some clods of firm land, the future continents Somewhat surprisingly, a confessed fear of spiders runs through this journal as I expected, an almost pathological loathing of chickens pervades the entries Unsurprisingly, it would seem that Huerequeque didn t have to do any acting he played himself A leit motif running through the journals is the bizarre quality of the news from civilization that filters down into the jungle the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, the account of the Japanese surgeon who remved his own appendix, the computer in Miami which sent a dilatory insurance client 24,000 notices of late payment of a monthly premium Juxtaposed to the shambolic film production, these intimations of entropy from beyond the trees have a tendancy to make Herzog s travails a little quotidian than they might otherwise seem. His documentaries are still strong, but Herzog the person has started to lapse into self parody thanks to Youtube readings of Green Eggs and Ham, etc It s easy to imagine his journal chronicling the torturous making of Fitzcarraldo would be chock full of madly hilarious Germanic ravings and pronouncements on the maniacal cruelty of nature and hairbrained insanity of the universe but in fact this is a nuanced, affecting, microscopically observant, and sometimes visionary account of the inner and outer landscapes Herzog navigated during his epic filmmaking project in the jungle Those who have read the equally wonderful Of Walking In Ice know that Herzog is a superb stylist and his written voice is far richer than his relatively one dimensional public persona These entries are dense with physical and poetic detail, crafted to capture at least a sideways glance of those sensations which tend to elude language As the book progresses, it would be helpful to be familiar with the movie but it s not strictly necessary These dark ruminations and unflinching observations are their own reward And for those who crave the crazier Herzog, here are some prime bits of jungle madness At the market I ate a piece a grilled monkey it looked like a naked child Our speedboat is stranded with gasket failure The boatman forgot to take along spare parts and tools and is now waiting for a miraculous intervention that might revive the engine Sweat, storm clouds overhead, sleeping dogs There is a smell of stale urine In my soup, ants and bugs were swimming among the globules of fat Lord Almighty, send us an earthquake For a moment the feeling crept over me that my work, my vision, is going to destroy me and for a fleeting moment I let myself take a long, hard look at myself, something I would not otherwise do out of instinct, on principle, out of self preservation look at myself with objective curiosity to see whether my vision has not destroyed me already I found it comforting to note that I was still breathing Seen from the plane, the sheer expanse of jungle is terrifying no one who has not been there can picture it We do not need virtuosos of syntax. From Marina Hyde s column in today s Guardian Anyway, let me conclude with a correction A fortnight ago, I suggested the movie disaster Brexit was most like was Heaven s Gate, simply because that notorious flop effectively collapsed a studio much in the way this crisis is threatening to collapse the UK But I have since wondered whether the most closely analogous flop is Werner Herzog s Fitzcarraldo don t worry, you needn t have seen it , which even its director came to see as the conquest of the useless Stop me if any of this feels familiar, but during the making of it Herzog claimed to have stopped sleeping entirely I just have brief, strenuous fainting spells while actors he accused of immense stupidity were required to do things like drag a steamship over a mountain Everyone on the movie behaved appallingly Indeed, when I look back over all the progressively insane and insatiable demands of the ERG and others during this sorry saga, I think of the story of Herzog s leading man Klaus Kinski, who on the very day he arrived on set screamed Not even my hairdresser is allowed to touch my hair And things went downhill from there One of the crew was bitten by a snake and sawed off his own foot Some of the extras offered to kill Kinski Herzog talked them out of it on the basis that the film wouldn t be finished.