Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Review: Rescue Dawn

If you don't know anything about Werner Herzog, you may be a little surprised by what you find in Rescue Dawn. He is a German director, and not of the same school as the Hollywood breed. I've mentioned him here before. He does nothing stylized (besides shot composition), nothing glorified, nothing even dramatized in the sense of enhancement or melodrama. It is simply a reenactment. He just tells the story, almost as though it were a documentary. He relies on the strength of the story itself, which is a move I can respect.

That style is especially interesting for Rescue Dawn, as this is a story Herzog has done before. It tells about Lt. Dieter Dengler, who was a real POW during (arguably before) the Vietnam war. In 1997, Herzog released a documentary about Dengler's capture, imprisonment, and escape. Christian Bale does an excellent job as Dengler for Dawn.

The selection of Steve Zahn is worth noting, given his striking resemblance to Herzog's lifelong friend and frequent collaborator, Klaus Kinski. Especially where Zahn is not playing his usual jokester role, he is Kinski incarnate. Give him a shave and conquistador garb, and he would turn into Don Lope de Aguirre, of Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God.

Both films deal with survival in the jungle, surounded by hostile natives, and slowly going mad in the process. Seems Herzog has a thing for wilderness and mania. See Grizzly Man, you'll get an idea of what I mean.

Speaking of mania, why is it that some of the most inspired artists are also some of the most insane? And successful film makers seem so singular in their ambition. They just want to make movies. Herzog is certainly a good example. He got his start making movies after he stole a camera from the Munich Film School.

If you haven't seen Aguirre, enjoy this clip. It is one of the closing scenes, when he is the sole survivor of his exploration party. His final speech is born out of madness, and includes a vow to conquer North and South America, find the city of El Dorado, and, "I, the wrath of God, will marry my own daughter and with her I'll found the purest dynasty the earth has ever seen."

Rescue Dawn is not a thrill ride, just a remarkable story. If you're in the market for one of those, enjoy. If you're not, go see She's the Man.


Angela said...

Because She's the Man is a remarkable story AND a thrill ride!

Austin said...

You said it, Sister! And it has one of those surprise endings, like an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Totally don't see it coming, and it makes the second viewing totally different.