The Burden of Dreams (1982)

Directed by Les Blank with Maureen Gosling

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The Burden of Dreams (1982)

The Film: In an amazing case of art imitating life (or vice versa), this seminal documentary traces Werner Herzog’s relentless struggle to shoot Fitzcarraldo, a film about a man determined to bring grand opera to the Amazon jungle.

The Significance: While other documentaries in a similar vein followed (Hearts of Darkness, Lost in La Mancha), Burden remains the most poignant and effective with its central image of Herzog’s Sisyphisian effort to haul a steamship over a mountain as he battles time, finances and nature. With admiration and a touch of irony, Blank and Gosling construct a film that explores artistic vision, unbridled ego and mortality itself.

The Features: As if things could get any more “meta,” Blank and Herzog contribute a commentary track, and Blank’s terrific short documentary, “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe,” accompanies the film. An impressive book also includes excerpts from Blank and Gosling’s diaries on the set of Fitzcarraldo.