It is amazing how there are moments when facts are better than fiction, such is the case with Fitzcarraldo. The story goes that Fitzcarraldo faced hostile Indians, snakes, disease, and unspeakable hardships while using indigenous labor to pull, drag, and hoist a boat across a mountain in the Amazon rainforest. The baron, Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an Irishman known as Fitzcarraldo, had realized that there was a parcel of unexploited land that was rich in rubber but unreachable due to the Pongo das Mortes (Rapids of Death).
Fitzcarraldo’s dream was to build an opera house in the jungle city of Iquitos, but he needed the funds to fulfill his dream. He had tried various ways to find the funding, but to no avail.
He eventually convinced his girlfriend, who ran a brothel in Iquitos, to finance his rubber expedition. He figured he could get to the 400-square-mile unexploited parcel by going upstream on a parallel tributary and moving his 30-ton boat across an isthmus upstream from the rapids, fill the boat with rubber (rubber), float the boat through the rapids to Iquitos and take advantage of the reward and make your dream of bringing opera to Iquitos come true.
The story continues as Fitzcarraldo ventures into hostile Indian territory. His crew is scared when leaving the expedition, Fitzcarraldo is surrounded by hostile Indians who block his return route. He realizes that the Indians believe in a river god and decides to see if his ship meets the theological requirements. He uses the music of his hero, the opera singer Enrico Caruso to quell the tribe and win their support.
After months of pulling and pushing the task was completed, the ship moved across a mountain to the Ucayali River. A big party is held to celebrate the task. Late at night, while the crew sleeps in a drunken state, the chief of the Indians cuts the mooring to appease the river god and the empty boat floats downstream through the rapids and returns to Iquitos.
It seems that Fitzcarraldo’s dream has faded, but once back in Iquitos, he sells his boat and uses the proceeds to bring the opera from Manaus Colombia to Iquitos for a commando performance on the deck of the boat as he floats to the port. from Iquitos.
In reality, Fitzcarraldo was actually Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, the son of an American father and a Peruvian mother. Not the benevolent figure portrayed in the film, but a ruthless conqueror who killed and defeated indigenous Indians and forced them to work as slaves or die from their own exploitation.
In fact, he moved a boat across an isthmus, but had slave labor dismantle the boat first and completed his task of filling it with rubber and his own pockets. Despite his brutality, he was a pioneer and explorer who charted the Madre de Dios region in Peru, founded the city of Puerto Maldonaldo, and explored what is now the Manu Reserve. He later died when his boat got caught in a whirlpool, the boat sank and he died, but the story doesn’t end there.
Intrigued by Fitzcarraldo’s story, the famous director, Werner Herzog, embarked on a quest to make an epic film about the rubber baron. He cast Jason Robards as Fitzcarraldo and Mick Jagger as Wilber (Fitzcarraldo’s partner).
The first hurdle came when five weeks of filming had passed and 40% of filming was complete and Robards fell ill with dysentery and his doctors would not let him return to complete the film. Later, Mick Jagger’s concert and album commitments force him to abandon the project, leaving Herzog with a half-finished film and his two stars having jumped ship.
Most of the directors would have licked their wounds and gone home, not Herzog. He went back to the drawing board refinancing and recasting the film, this time starring Klaus Kinski, but this was only the beginning of his troubles.
Herzog had negotiated with the Aguaruna Indians to support his project, but did not realize that he had fallen directly into a political nightmare. A border skirmish between Peru and Ecuador had everyone on edge. The Indians had become disenchanted with the film and began to become hostile towards the entire project. Rumors that Herzog planned to turn the movie camp into a tourist mecca enraged the Indians.
As in the Amazon, rumors turned into wacky stories and wacky stories turned into bizarre action when the film project catalyzed and unified Aguarunians. The indigenous people found it threatening that a group of men camped together without women. For them, men met without women before battle.
Then rumors spread that Herzog had exterminated two Indian villages and participated in the German holocaust. Aguarunians dressed in war paint surrounded the camp and ordered everyone to leave. They burned the camp and celebrated the act of expelling the white man from their land.
Again, most would have quit and gone home. Not Herzog, the problems continued when the Amazon experienced a severe drought that left the ship ashore, crew members were killed in a plane crash, people were injured, many contracted malaria, and there is a story that one was bitten by the deadly bushmaster snake. They gave him an ultimatum, die in the jungle or cut his leg with a chainsaw, he chose the latter. The crew went crazy, constant rain, setbacks and continuous problems with the Indians, including people who were shot with arrows.
Kinski was in a constant uproar, in fact, at one point, the Indian chief offered to kill him if Herzog gave him permission, an action Herzog had contemplated himself. Whores, cold beer, and masato, a fermented drink made by chewing yucca root and spitting into a canoe, kept the lid on the powder keg, and finally the movie was finished after four years of agonizing effort, along with a “crafting del Fitzcarraldo “called Burden of Dreams”.
Filming and moving a 340-ton boat through a mountain without special effects was no easy task, but Herzog completed what the real Fitzcarrald would never have attempted.
El Fitzcarraldo won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982. Today there are still remains of the Fiscarraldo scattered around Iquitos. Fitzcarrald’s real home is now the Micobank which sits on the corner of Prospero St .. Original producer Walter Saxer runs a hotel and relaxing place for a cold beer called Casa Fiscarraldo and one of the original actors Huerequeque, who played the role of the ship. Cook, he runs a bar on the Nanay River.
Carlos Fitzcarrald’s original house still stands on the corner of Prospero St. in Iquitos, now a bank but still the same clay building.