Werner Herzog has stated that he thinks that Fitzcarraldo is about how people should try to achieve their dreams, and he claimed that he thought it was very "inspiring". I suppose maybe to Herzog it is inspiring, but then Herzog is a madman, so his opinions don't really count. I guess if you compare it his other Kinski-wandering-around-the-jungle-trying-to-achieve-an-impossible-goal movie, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo is inspirational, in a way. I mean, not everybody dies at the end. Nobody becomes unsalvagably insane - it doesn't end with a man, alone on a doomed boat, surrounded by hundreds of tamarins, mummbling to himself about how he is master of the world. He goes back home and is welcomed back by his loving mistress, and he gets to listen to opera. If I had to choose between being Aguirre and being Fitzcarraldo, I would definitely choose Fitzcarraldo. I mean sure, he's wasted an incredible amount of time and money on a venture that turned out to be completely futile as well as emotionally draining, but he is still alive.
Maybe this is where Herzog and I differ - I see the massive waste of time and energy and money, he sees the inspirational story of a man who kind of achieved his impossible dream. To Herzog, I suppose the fact that he never had to leave at all to achieve the happiness he has at the end of the film is irrelevant - he achieved his dream, and now is happy. The fact that those things are entirely unrelated is, I suppose, besides the point.
None of this is to say that Fitzcarraldo is in any way a bad film - it isn't. It is an amazing film, an incredible, awe-inspiring, beautiful, crazy, amazing film. I guess I just differ in my interpretation of the film from Herzog. Or maybe what is supposed to be 'inspirational' about the film is not the film itself, but the making of the film - the fact that Herzog actually managed to drag a huge boat over a goddamn mountain in the middle of the goddamn jungle. That is amazing, and I suppose a little bit inspiring. It takes a special kind of madness to do something so ambitiously incredible - maybe we could all learn something from Herzog. Maybe we should all act like crazed lunatics.
No. No, we probably shouldn't. I think one Herzog is enough.