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The Most Eloquent Man Alive: Werner Herzog

September 25, 2011

The following is a short clip from the 1982 documentary The Burden of Dreams, which follows Werner Herzog and his team through the process of filming the movie Fitzcarraldo in the Amazonian rainforest. The narratives of Fitzcarraldo and The Burden of Dreams revolve around tasks that appear to be impossible; in both cases dragging a riverboat over a small mountain that separates two rivers and, in the case of The Burden of Dreams, doing all the other things that contribute to and complicate film production in a remote forest area, to boot.

Here we observe a clearly frustrated Herzog holding on by the skin of his teeth to his composure, sanity and film project. He practically vibrates with the force of his awful admiration of the jungle that constantly endeavors to put an end to the film and, in some cases, the lives of those involved.

What really gets me, though, is Herzog’s profound awareness of his own presence in relation to and with the jungle and all of its millions and billions of creeping, sliming, moist and fecund inhabitants.

“We, in comparison to the articulate vileness, and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle … we in comparison to that enormous articulation, we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid, suburban novel, a cheap novel.”

His expression of impotence in the face of the forest juggernaut and exasperation at laboriously scraping through this environment in an effort to realize a creative dream is eloquently humble and represents an attitude that ought to be more widespread. Not only should we all develop such a willingness to doggedly pursue the apparently impossible but also become as sensitive and open to being humbled by what bears down upon us when we are brave enough to commit to that path.

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