When it was released in 1982, Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo was widely criticized for its demanding use of human and natural resources as well as its director’s uncompromising aesthetic vision. Critics and scholars saw little difference between the film’s protagonist’s obsession with hauling a ship over a mountain in the Amazon and Herzog’s own mode of cinematic production and storytelling. And yet Fitzcarraldo stands out as one of the defining moments of New German Cinema and, as the years pass, continues to raise new questions about the relation of film and society, art and nature, progress and subjectivity, the known and the unknown. This book revisits Herzog’s tale of operatic entrepreneurialism from a decisively contemporary standpoint. It draws on recent writing on the Anthropocene to probe the relationship of art, civilization, and the natural world in Fitzcarraldo. It discusses the role of opera and music in Herzog’s Amazon spectacle. And it brings into play the development of Herzog’s own career as a filmmaker over the last few decades to offer a fresh look at this by-now classical contribution to twentieth-century German film art.
Visit Boydell & Brewers Proof blog for a background story about the writing of this book.
German Film Classics
Camden House, September 2019
49 color illustrations