Archive of films Burden of Dreams / Burden of Dreams

1982, 95 min

Section: Forum of Independents - Tribute to Les Blank
Year: 2008

Perhaps the greatest documentaries ever about obsession and artistic commitment, it records the making of Herzog’s epic Fitzcarraldo and his determination to include a sequence requiring hundreds of natives to pull a full-size steamship over a mountain, making the project increasingly perilous.


Les Blank first filmed acclaimed German auteur Werner Herzog eating his shoe, as a penalty for losing a bet with Errol Morris on whether a successful documentary could be made about pet cemeteries. A few years later, Blank followed Herzog deep into the Amazon to record the making of his historical epic Fitzcarraldo. Herzog’s determination to shoot daunting scenes without models or special effects, including a sequence requiring hundreds of native Indians to pull a full-size, 320-ton steamship over a small mountain made the project increasingly perilous. Perhaps the greatest documentary ever made about obsession and artistic commitment, Burden of Dreams shows a double dream coming true against all odds as Herzog (risking life and limb) singlemindedly attains his vision of shooting, up the jungle river, a work of art about Fitzcarraldo’s vision, of staging, up the jungle river, the operas he loves. Apart from Fitzcarraldo’s horrendous logistics, and the visual-practical problems of the shoot (which dragged on for four years), Burden of Dreams reveals power struggles with local authorities, German radicals talking of genocide, incompatible pay-norms between technicians and native labor, tribal quarrels over harvesting turtles’ eggs, and a major battle of wills between Herzog and prickly star Klaus Kinski. Gradually, it shades into being a film about two cultures sliding past one another, using one another, but unable to make contact.


Flower Films
10341 San Pablo Avenue, 94530, El Cerrito
United States of America
Tel: +1 510 525 0942
Fax: +1 510 525 1204
E-mail: [email protected]

About the film

Color, 16 mm

Section: Forum of Independents - Tribute to Les Blank
Director: Les Blank
Dir. of Photography: Les Blank
Editor: Maureen Gosling
Producer: Les Blank
Production: Flower Films
Cast: Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski
Contact: Flower Films


Les Blank

Film Director


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