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Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldoby Werner Herzog
Much like the man himself, Werner Herzog's journal from the filming of Fitzcarraldo is hallucinatory and horrific, lovely and poetic all at once. This is a book about madness and obsession, about depth and illusion, about a place where nothing is as it seems. Filled with darkness and light, it's the story of a vision so contradictory and shifting it becomes life itself. I've stayed in Iquitos on the Amazon, and this is by far the most honest, accurate description of the place I've ever read. In fact, I've never read so honest a description of any place.
"Conquest seem to weigh more than the pages of most books. As in one of Herzog's slow-moving films, life comes across as a dark, viscous current through which people arduously wade: remember Kasper Hauser trying and failing to learn to walk as his father kicks the back of his feet, or Hombre, the bashful, good-natured midget in Even Dwarfs Started Small attempting unsuccessfully to climb onto a bed from every side, a spectacle which Herzog's tenacious, unblinking camera refuses to let go of for a full two and half minutes." Giles Harvey, the Virginia Quarterly Review (read the entire Virginia Quarterly Review review)
Synopses & Reviews
“Hypnotic….It is ever tempting to try to fathom his restless spirit and his determination to challenge fate.”
—Janet Maslin, New York Times
Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) is one of the most revered and enigmatic filmmakers of our time, and Fitzcarraldo is one of his most honored and admired films. More than just Herzogs journal of the making of the monumental, problematical motion picture, which involved, among other things, major cast changes and reshoots, and the hauling (without the use of special effects) of a 360-ton steamship over a mountain , Conquest of the Useless is a work of art unto itself, an Amazonian fever dream that emerged from the delirium of the jungle. With fascinating observations about crew and players—including Herzogs lead, the somewhat demented internationally renowned star Klaus Kinski—and breathtaking insights into the filmmaking process that are uniquely Werner Herzog, Conquest of the Useless is an eye-opening look into the mind of a cinematic master.
One of the most revered filmmakers of our time, Werner Herzog wrote this diary during the making of Fitzcarraldo, the lavish 1982 film that tells the story of a would-be rubber baron who pulls a steamship over a hill in order to access a rich rubber territory. Later, Herzog spoke of his difficulties when making the film, including casting problems, reshoots, language barriers, epic clashes with the star, and the logistics of moving a 320-ton steamship over a hill without the use of special effects.
Hailed by critics around the globe, the film went on to win Herzog the 1982 Outstanding Director Prize at Cannes. Conquest of the Useless, Werner Herzog's diary on his fever dream in the Amazon jungle, is an extraordinary glimpse into the mind of a genius during the making of one of his greatest achievements.
About the Author
Werner Herzog grew up in a remote mountain village in Bavaria. He never saw any films, television, or telephones as a child. During high school he worked the nightshift as a welder in a steel factory to produce his first film, in 1961, at the age of nineteen. Since then he has produced, written, and directed more than fifty films, including Aguirre, the Wrath of God; The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser; Rescue Dawn; and Grizzly Man. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
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