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4.5 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale. Directed by Werner Herzog. A man hires natives in a South American jungle to pull his 320-ton steamship over a mountain in this breathtaking drama. 1982/color/157 min/PG.


Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (Klaus Kinski), known as Fitzcarraldo to the native Peruvians, is an avid opera lover and rubber baron who dreams of building an opera house in the Peruvian jungle. To accomplish this, he plans to reach an isolated patch of rubber trees and make his fortune. But these trees are not directly accessible by river because of dangerous rapids, so Fitzcarraldo runs his ship as close as possible via an alternate river and then enlists the aid of the native Peruvians to drag his ship over a mountain to the desired area. However, the natives seem to have their own agenda in so mysteriously acceding to Fitzcarraldo's wishes. The results manage to both mock and affirm the dreams of determined figures like Fitzcarraldo, making absurdity out of the stuff of human endeavor without negating the beauty of that effort. There is hardly a more awe-inspiring or arresting image than that of Fitzcarraldo's ship pulling itself up the mountain with cables and pulleys, or of the ship resting in mid-ascent as seen through the thick morning fog of the jungle.

The tortured production history of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (ably recorded in Les Blank's documentary Burden of Dreams) tends to take the spotlight away from this deeply mesmerizing film. And that's unfortunate, because the film itself is even more fascinating than the trials and tribulations, amazing though they might be, that led to its being made. Part of the problem is the film's deliberate, some might say ponderous, pace, which invites the viewer to experience the slow immersion into the jungle that Fitzcarraldo and company experience. Herzog did something similar in Aguirre, the Wrath of God, sometimes aiming his camera at the river rapids for extended periods of time, with hypnotic results. This could never happen in a Hollywood film, and it should be treasured. --Jim Gay

Special Features

  • German Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale, José Lewgoy, Miguel Ángel Fuentes, Paul Hittscher
  • Directors: Werner Herzog
  • Writers: Werner Herzog
  • Producers: Werner Herzog, Lucki Stipetic, Renzo Rossellini, Walter Saxer, Willi Segler
  • Format: Anamorphic, Black & White, Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: January 1, 1999
  • Run Time: 158 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00001ODHV
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,369 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Fitzcarraldo" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on July 8, 2003
Format: DVD
I can safely say I have rarely seen anything approaching Werner Herzog's 1982 masterpiece "Fitzcarraldo." This opulent cinematic oeuvre about an obsessive man with a dream to build an opera house in the wilds of Peru often challenges modern American conceptions of filmmaking, namely MTV style editing and grating special effects. Clocking in at an expansive 2 1/2 hours, "Fitzcarraldo" requires patience and an appreciation for imaginative subtlety on the part of the viewer. The film certainly required patience on the part of Herzog and the cast: the movie took three years to make, and the original leads dropped out of the project (Jason Robards was one of them, who might have made an effective Fitzcarraldo when one thinks about it). One imagines hauling an enormous boat over a mountain in the Amazon had much to do with this long filming schedule. But why not use a real boat? A movie about obsession ought to indulge in it behind the scenes as well. "Fitzcarraldo" is an epic film about an epic idea. I cannot imagine any American director pulling this off even half as well.
Klaus Kinski plays Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, called Fitzcarraldo by the natives in his home base of Iquitos, Peru. Fitzcarraldo is one of those archetype figures present wherever big money rears its head, the eternal dreamer who cannot quite pull of an idea. In this case, the locale is the rich rubber producing regions in Peru and Brazil in the early part of the twentieth century. When Enrico Caruso performs in Manaus, yet another grand plan strikes Fitzcarraldo's fancy. He will build an opera house in Iquitos and have the famous Caruso perform on opening night. There is only one problem with this scheme: he isn't rich and must rely on wealthy rubber barons to foot the bill, which they are unwilling to do.
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Format: VHS Tape
This was the last in the classic string of screen collaborations between director Werner Herzog and his longtime star, Kinski. Almost as if Herzog wanted to mark the tenth anniversary of his shooting of 'Aguirre: the Wrath of God' by doing something big, he takes Kinski and us back to the rainforests of South America on another mission piece. Only this time Kinski isn't portrayed as being the mad hunter in search of something massive....he's already travelling inside it! This is a cinematic story about one man's quest to take the naturally beautiful voice of tenor Enrico Caruso into the natural beauty of the jungle (Kinski, in essence, as an operatic Jesuit). As in 'Aguirre', Klaus Kinski is still cast as a nut, it's just that this time around he's not a sword-swiping megalomaniac, he's instead a lovable eccentric who wishes to cut through the undergrowth with art alone (all right..... art, that is, and the sweat of hundreds of Amazonian natives!). Herzog once again uses his camera to hypnotise, the darkness of the print and the dampered noises being quite capable of inducing a catatonic state right from the beginning when Kinski and Italian starlet Claudia Cardinale arrive by boat, late for the opera. All of Herzog's works need to watched at night to maximise the effect of the sombre tones and cascading wisps of drab hues on the eyes and spirit. 'Fitzcarraldo' ranks highly there because its trance-coaxing powers are greater than in many (but not all) of Herzog's films. And yet at the same time, this movie thrusts at the viewer's senses and sense of reason. Case in point: how do you haul a steel steamboat over a tree-blanketed mountainside?Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Among the things that distinguish Werner Herzog as a film-maker are two qualities that he shares with William Shakespeare: he knows the human heart better than most dramatists, and he never lets the facts get in the way of telling a good story.
Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (called "Fitzcarraldo" by the natives) was a real guy, who really loved opera, and really did drag a ship over a piece of land to get it from one part of a South American river to another. He did it to bring opera to middle of the jungle. That's history. What drove this guy to do such a frankly outrageous thing in the name of art? What kind of fever siezes a visionary and brings him to the brink of insanity to attempt such a thing? That's the stuff of drama. Herzog knows the difference, and his choices in bringing the story to the screen were flawless.
Fitzcarraldo, like all of Herzong's films (even Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht), uses the theme of cultural clash as a macrocosm of the conflicted human mind. So what if the real boat was much smaller than the one in the film? Who cares if the real act of dragging it across land - though arduous - was not nearly so grand as the film depicts? The resultant images are what count, and they would not have the stunning effect Herzog pulls off in this film were it more "historically accurate".
All film directors do things for effect. What separates the good ones from the great is their reason. The once-great Frances Ford Coppola seems to be aiming for empty aesthetics with his last few films; Herzog wants nothing less than to illuminate the soul. It's a grand, quixotic goal; prone to failure - much like dragging a boat through the jungle. But he seems to pull it off time and time again. You remember the images, yes - they're hard to forget.
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