Other Movies Seen By This Director (14)
- Aguirre: The Wrath of God
- The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams
- Grizzly Man
- Into the Abyss
- Into the Inferno
- Lessons in Darkness
- Little Dieter Needs to Fly
- My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski
- Wheel of Time
- The White Diamond
- The Wild Blue Yonder
|10.22.06||Paramount||This Screening is part of event: Austin Film Festival 2006|
The last day of the screenwriter's conference here at AFF also brings the "centerpiece" film of the festival: Werner Herzog's dramatization of his earlier doc Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Not only is it new narrative Herzog, but it's Herzog back in the jungle. Next to that, I don't care about any controversial Death of a President movie, even if it is screening at the Texas State History Museum.
Christian Bale plays Dieter, a pilot who gets shot down on a secret bombing mission over Laos and has to survive. It's really Bale's movie but the supporting cast is filled out with Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies, and a handful of familiar faces (including the guy who played Andy the small pox'd preacher in Deadwood and the guy who played Stumpy in Carnivale). Davies' anorexic physique is showed off and Zahn wins the beard contest for sure though, leaving Bale's transforming weight much less of a showcase than in The Machinist. They are all definitely troopers though... dunking their heads in dirty jungle rivers, getting down in the muck, and even letting real leeches suck on them in one scene. It all looks very real and very jungly and somewhere where I really wouldn't want to be, whether it's for real or just to make a movie.
Surprisng to me though, this is Herzog's most commercial movie to date. With the leverage that Grizzly Man gave him, this is a great movie to vault him into mainstream American households... which would be funny since he's like 60 and has already made 50 movies. But even though it's commercial that doesn't mean it's bad. Once again Herzog portrays the jungle itself as a character, showing its voracious and relentless growth, covering and strangling anything in its path. In a few scenes Bale and Zahn machete their way through the bush. Herzog shows this process and its difficulty with real authenticity to potent effect... it's literally like the plants are alive and trying to hold you back. With the constant reminder that Herzog's already done the documentary form of this story - that everything we're seeing actually happened to the real Dieter Dengler - man that guy went through some shit to stay alive. The music is also very effective, perhaps the most "herzog-ian" aspect of the film, with a subtle undercurrent of trembling strings accenting the sounds of the jungle, blooming into fully dramatic score in key moments.
Really the only thing this movie is missing is some sort of voice-over from Herzog himself... but I say that about pretty much every movie, whether Herzog's attached to it or not. My favorite scene was probably the one with Zahn and the farmers. It's so crazy and sudden and even though it's not dreamlike at all you still have to ask yourself if that really happened.
I guess this movie will get lots of comparisons to The Deer Hunter because of the whole concentration camp angle... and that's valid. But Herzog's take on this somewhat familiar genre stands alone and is pretty great.