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Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 158 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG


Klaus Kinski plays Brian Sweeny Fitzgerald (of indiscernible nationality), an obsessed opera lover who dreams of building an opera house in the South American jungle. First, the kook has to make a fortune so he decides to become a rubber baron – the hard way. He buys a piece of untapped land that is only accessible through a set of deadly rapids and he sets about doing whatever anyone else in his position would, which is to use a huge number of Native American slaves to pull his boat over a mountain and thus cut out this dangerous obstacle. Genius.

Fitzcarraldo is a masterpiece of atmospheric storytelling and awesome cinematography using the extreme location of the jungles of South America. Kinski is the film’s shining light as he brings an obvious passion and intensity to the role of Brian, or Fitzcarraldo as understandably prefers to be known. This is such a quirky and likeable character that you can actively encourage him as he corrals his native American slaves into work. The extras are used in such numbers that they create an awesome spectacle from their eerie arrival to their apparently motiveless labour efforts.

Herzog being Herzog, all that’s onscreen was done for real – boats were pulled up mini-mountains and entire casts and crews were engulfed in mud and tropical rainforests for months. Filming was beset by problems including the withdrawal of original lead Mick Jagger (possibly the most fortuitous decisions for all parties concerned), a maniacal replacement front man in Kinski and an almost impossible terrain to work with. All these trials and tribulations make watching the movie even more awe-inspiring and a deeper experience. It wasn’t all done by a computer boffin in a studio – it has character.

It's Got: A magnetic performance, expert cinematography and storytelling, a boat and a mountain

It Needs: the question to be asked: Why on earth would someone who looks like Claudia Cardinale fall in love with a madman with a oddshaped head?

DVD Extras Just an excellent commentary featuring Herzog AND Kinski. Fitzcarraldo can also be found amongst the Werner Herzog Boxset. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10


A glorious tale of what you can do with you put your mind (and a few hundred slaves) to a task that includes the South American jungle, an opera obsessed nut and an inconsiderately placed mountain.