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24 September 2017: Burden of Dreams + Werner Herzog Eats his Shoe


Werner Herzog Eats his Shoe
Les Blank
1980 | 22 min | Colour | 16mm
Introduced by David Ellis

In 1979, Les Blank took a detour to film German filmmaker Werner Herzog honouring a vow he made to Errol Morris that he (Herzog) would eat his shoe if Morris ever actually made one of his films he was forever talking about. Stung to action, Morris directed Gates of Heaven and Herzog, true to his word, returned to Berkeley to consume one of his desert boots at the UC Theater. Blank's film documents Herzog's strongly expressed belief that people must have the guts to attempt what they dream of.

Burden of Dreams
Les Blank
1982 | 90 min | Colour | 16mm
Introduced by David Ellis

“Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo was an eccentric project, to say the least. In fact, Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, a film about the making of Fitzcarraldo, is a much more enlightening piece about an obsessed man battling the forces of nature. Based on a true story, Fitzcarraldo stars Klaus Kinski as a Caruso fanatic determined to build an opera house in the Andean jungle; his money-making scheme involves hauling a steamship over a mountain. Unwilling to compromise his vision, Herzog insists, too, on actually hauling a ship over a mountain. From the film’s false start (original stars Jason Robards and Mick Jagger backed out) through an unbelievable range of production traumas, Burden of Dreams watches the extravaganza unfold – warts and all – with an honest yet nonintrusive eye. Engineers quit in disgust, native tribes battle each other, workers are badly injured, and nerves are shattered all around. But when asked whether he would continue his project in light of its troubles, Herzog was adamant: “I live my life or I end my life with this project.” – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Part of our season on Werner Herzog