I am half-way through. It's a diary without self-pity of a pitiless time in the jungles of Peru. Werner Herzog shot Fitzcarraldo here, where I live. So I don't live in the rainforest, but Lima, the capital. I know the rainforest and understand his frustrations and the culture shock for one used to the comforts of Europe or the US. Only Werner Herzog could attempt this films and actually see it through. Anyone else would have given up before even starting the project.
Ok, I have finished it. Here is what I thought of it:
Werner Herzog’s super-heroic feat of making an über-film like Fitzcarraldo in the Amazon jungle left me hot, frustrated, angry, and full of admiration for a man who wouldn’t be defeated. I would have given up the struggle when my socks disappear, my underpants I hang up to dry go awol, when my boatman reassures me (again) that he filled up the tank with petrol but then gets us stranded because he didn’t. And if not then, I would have opted out when my foot doesn’t manage to get into my shoe and I reach in, thinking of finding a bunched-up sock, my hand instead coming out holding a ginormous tarantula.
Herzog, in an interview in a German magazine a while back, said, “For twenty hears I couldn’t bring myself to look at those diaries.” Quite.Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the making of Fitzcarraldo
is a must read for all those who want to get inspired by Herzog’s seemingly laid-back bloody-mindedness, to shudder at the prospect of ever following in his footsteps, and those who have seen the movie.
I live in Peru and know the jungle some. I can assure you that every word seems true to me.