DVD Review Of Burden Of Dreams
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 10/13/10
Les Blank’s 1982 documentary, Burden Of Dreams, is a film that, like Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, follows the near-obsessive drive of a great filmmaker to bring a great film to fruition. In the latter film, Eleanor Coppola detailed her husband Francis Ford Coppola’s will to bring Apocalypse Now to the screen. The former film details the similar drive that compelled German filmmaker Werner Herzog to make Fitzcarraldo. While the two fictive films are both great, the Coppola film is likely the greater film than Herzog’s, but, as far as the documentaries are concerned, Burden Of Dreams far outstrips Hearts Of Darkness. The latter film is a good film, but there’s nothing that lifts the film above the Making Of sort of documentary that’s since become de rigueur with DVD releases. In short, the film is pointless if you’ve not watched Apocalypse Now. Not so with Burden Of Dreams. While not a perfect film, it acts as not just a Making Of film, but a film that details a good portion of the sociological and anthropological nature of the natives that Herzog and his crew lived and worked amongst. And, the reason for this may lay in the fact that Blank got a grant from PBS, and the film was originally shown on American television in a truncated 60 minute version, rather than the extended 95 minute long release from The Criterion Collection.
This fact is gleaned from the audio commentary that comes with the film, provided by Blank, his sound recorder, Maureen Gosling, and the ever engaging raconteur himself, Herzog. What is interesting is the fact that there seems to be a meta-meta-meta-narrative in this whole pursuit, that even Herzog mentions, in commenting on a film that’s a comment on his film, which comments on the historical plight of the region that is commented upon by Blank’s documentary. Aside from the commentary, which is quite serviceable, there are other features of note, including the original trailer for the film, two deleted scenes which were later used in Herzog’s own documentary on his relationship with actor Klaus Kinski (who portrayed the character Brian Fitzcarraldo, and starred in four other Herzog films), My Best Fiend, featuring Kinski raging and doing small things with butterflies. There is also a photo gallery of images from the films, and a booklet featuring diary excerpts by Gosling and Blank, as well as a pullout with an essay on the film by film scholar Paul Arthur. But, the two best extras, aside from the commentary, come in the form of a twenty minute short film from Blank, from 1980, called Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, in which Herzog fulfills a bet he lost with documentarian Errol Morris, who got the funding he needed to complete his own first film, Gates Of Heaven. The second feature of note is a 38 minute long featurette called Dreams And Burdens, in which Herzog is interviewed about the documentary. The film is shown in a 1.33 :1 aspect ratio.
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on The Spinning Image website.]
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