Cine File is a random reference guide to help explore the vast catalog of films available on Netflix instant viewing, with special emphasis on the interesting, the unusual, and the ones that got left behind. Here are two absolutely compelling documentaries about the insane lengths traveled for artistic creation: Burden of Dreams and Man on Wire.
Burden of Dreams (1982) is a documentary by Les Blank about the making of Werner Herzog’s infamous film Fitzcarraldo (1982). Herzog is the true madman of cinema, known for shooting his films in the most remote regions on the planet, which explains his title, “Conquistador of the Useless.”
Fitzcarraldo is based on the true story of a manic Victorian aristocrat who yearned to open an opera house in the middle of the rainforest. In making Fitzcarraldo, Herzog goes to absurd lengths to recreate the actual events of the story, particularly by trying to move a steamship over a mountain with the help of an indigenous tribe. Many of Herzog’s narrative films get overshadowed by the behind-the-scenes drama involved in the making of them, with bizarre contributions by his favorite lead actor Klaus Kinski, as well as the megalomaniacal behavior of Herzog himself. Burden of Dreams documents one of the most difficult films ever made by detailing the struggle to hold onto to one’s vision, if not sanity. Observing the destruction that occurs during filmmaking, the question arises: is this drive merely artistic passion or something darker?
Man on Wire (2008) is the true story of Philippe Petit, a French high wire artist who shocked the world in 1974 when he illegally snuck up to the top of the World Trade Center and tightrope-walked between the Twin Towers — an achievement that has been called the “artistic crime of the century.” Man on Wire presents itself as a heist film, often using re-creation footage to build tension as Petit and his collaborators get closer to the final unbelievable act. Though the tragedy of September 11, 2001 is never mentioned, its memory haunts from the shadows, which makes Petit’s high-wire act all the more
Together, these two films document the creative vision and determination needed to create something out of nothing.