Werner Herzog's Notes From The Amazon

In 1982, filmmaker Werner Herzog wrote and directed an epic movie called Fitzcarraldo, based on the life story of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald.

In the movie, a man named Fitzcarraldo traveled to the heart of the Amazonian jungle to get to the last remaining rubber trees parcel in a steamboat. He has to navigate some of the most perilous river in the Amazon as well as transport the boat up a mountain on dry land (you'll see).

Just as interesting as the movie is his newly published book Conquest of the Useless; Reflections on the Making of Fitzcarraldo, which is a transcript of Herzog's notebooks from almost three decades ago. Minnesotastan of TYWKIWDBI blog has the excerpt:

What was interesting to me was to discover that Herzog didn't live the life of a pampered director; he was on-site near the headwaters of the Amazon, living in squalor and coping with the incredible incompetence of local workers. Here are some of my jotted notes from the book to give the flavor of the contents:

12 – At the Indians’ request, we bring chain saws, machetes, and shotguns to the Rio Cenepa, as well as a large canister of poison for arrow tips. They no longer know how to make it themselves. Vivanco says they will pay for a spoonful with a gold nugget.

79 – The family who had given us a pot of hot water crowded around, and we fixed tuna for them and gave them tea; that is how it is done here – food is always shared, Cesar says, which is why there is no word for “thank you” in their language.

169 – The helicopter of the Bolivian president, Barrientos, flew into a power line and crashed from a low altitude. He had suitcases full of money with him, presumably from drug deals. The helicopter immediately caught fire, but although people were there and tried to rescue him from the blaze, no one could get close, because the heat made the submachine guns carried by the president and his entourage start firing wildly, and in the hail of bullets no one dared approach.

226 – Across from our headquarters overlooking the Nanay there was a huge explosion in a boiler, fortunately after the work day in the factory there as over. The one night watchman was blown to pieces and sent flying. A smallish bloody piece of him landed with a splat on our porch.


But if readin' ain't your thing, you can just rent Burden of Dreams, a documentary by Les Blank about the making of the movie.

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