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Original title Fitzcarraldo
Country of production Federal Republic of Germany , Peru
original language English , Spanish , Asháninka
Publishing year 1982
length 158 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Werner Herzog
script Werner Herzog
production Werner Herzog,
Lucki Stipetic ,
Walter Saxer ,
Willi Segler
music Popol Vuh
camera Thomas Mauch
cut Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus

Fitzcarraldo is a film by the director Werner Herzog and was his fourth collaboration with Klaus Kinski , who plays an eccentric: He wants to build an opera house in the jungle and tries the seemingly impossible to do so. The film opened in German cinemas on March 4, 1982.


The eccentric adventurer and opera lover Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald - called Fitzcarraldo by the Spanish-speaking Peruvians - dreams of building an opera house in Iquitos in the Peruvian jungle based on the model of the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus and hiring the singer Enrico Caruso . In order to be able to finance the construction, he buys with the money of his lover Molly - a successful brothel owner - a development right for rubber extraction in a section of the jungle inaccessible by river as well as an old river steamer with which he wants to transport the rubber.

Since the river between the promising rubber fields and the Amazon is impassable due to rapids , Fitzgerald came up with the idea of ​​crossing the neighboring river to a point where only a small, wooded ridge separates the rivers. Here he wants to pull the ship over the mountain in order to use it as a transport ship on the other river above the rapids. He is unexpectedly helped by the hostile and feared Peruvian natives who believe they recognize the ship as a vehicle from divine promise .

In the night after the successful celebration of the successful crossing of the mountain ridge, the Indios loosen the mooring of the ship's bank, unnoticed by the rest of the crew sleeping on board, in order to lead it to the destination assumed by the Indians, namely to enable them to travel into their divinely promised future and to protect them from evil nature demons . The incapable of maneuvering ship drifts through the rapids and is easily damaged in the process, including the sextet from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti (“Who is able to restrain anger”) from the gramophone . Due to the inability to return, the ship has forfeited its commercial purpose.

Fitzgerald is forced to sell the ship back to the previous owner and uses the proceeds to make his dream come true in other ways: he turns the ship's deck into his “opera house” in the jungle for a single performance; Fitzgerald enjoys this as a dream realization against the backdrop of his failure on a large scale. In the final scene, the famous duet “A te, o cara” ( To you, oh dear ) from the opera I puritani by Vincenzo Bellini is performed on the ship, accompanied by the choir .



The filming took place under extremely difficult circumstances in some cases, which dragged the project out over a period of two years. Originally Jack Nicholson was intended for the title role , who was also very interested, but with 5 million US dollars, a fee that was much too high for the production. Eventually Jason Robards was hired for the role of Fitzcarraldo, while Mick Jagger's assistant and Mario Adorf should play the captain . Half the film was shot with these three actors. After Robards had to stop filming because of an illness, about which there was much speculation, Werner Herzog briefly considered playing the main role himself. The complete abortion of the film was temporarily under discussion, and the financiers were also skeptical. Jagger, who had previously shot in South America with Jerry Hall , initially wanted to continue, but then had to cancel because of an upcoming world tour of the Rolling Stones . Adorf returned to Europe given the interruption in filming. After hearing nothing from Herzog for weeks, he thought the project was over and let Rainer Werner Fassbinder win him over for his film Lola . Eventually, Kinski was hired for the lead role, which required the creation of a detailed contract. The script also had to be rewritten, including the removal of the role of assistant intended for Jagger. The role of the captain was taken over by the amateur actor Paul Hittscher, who was born in Hamburg and had a restaurant in Peru and had previously been a sailor for a long time, instead of Adorf.

Kinski behaved partly cooperatively, partly difficult, he made many demands during the shooting, which he wanted to enforce loudly. Private circumstances also contributed to Kinski's changing mood. According to Herzog, during the filming the indigenous people offered to kill Klaus Kinski, who repeatedly had his dreaded outbursts of anger during the filming. A fierce battle of words between Kinski and producer Walter Saxer became particularly famous after it was shown in Herzog's documentary My Dearest Enemy . On the other hand, Kinski also encouraged Herzog to complete the film despite the difficulties of the shooting, and gave important impulses. The happy end of work on Fitzcarraldo was greeted with great joy and relief by everyone involved.

The original river steamer from Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald is rotting in the
Madre de Dios region today

The shooting in the jungle turned out to be difficult, especially since Herzog was in the middle of the jungle without special effects, even though the river steamer was pulled over the mountain with bulldozers. In this, Herzog wrote in his diary entries Eroberung des Nutzlosen , published in 2004 , that “my task and that of the character have become identical”. There were also financial problems, on the negotiations with the executive office of Twentieth Century Fox in Hollywood writes Herzog: "[It] is considered here as did not discuss a matter of course, a model ship out of plastic over a Studio hill draw, perhaps even in a botanical garden , [...] and I said that the indisputable matter of course had to be a real steamship over a real mountain, but not for the sake of realism, but because of the stylization of a major opera event. ”Mario Adorf later portrayed Herzog as an inhuman and megalomaniac director in Der Grenzgänger not only cut down hundreds of trees in the jungle, but also risked the lives of actors and Indians according to plan. Conversely, Herzog saw the two original actors Robards and Adorf " starry airs " and accused them of cowardice and stupidity.

In fact, there were several accidents on the film set. The hand of the cameraman Thomas Mauch was torn open with no medical help nearby. In the scenes in which the ship slid through the strong currents, six people had to be present on the ship to navigate it. Of the six volunteers, including Herzog, three were injured. According to Herzog, a Peruvian worker was bitten by a highly toxic snake and then cut off his own foot with a chainsaw to prevent the deadly poison from spreading throughout his body. Furthermore, a cameraman's toe was bitten off by a piranha. There was a plane crash on the fringes of filming in which 6 people were involved. Some of the inmates were seriously injured but survived. Furthermore, the film set was attacked by a jungle tribe while hunting for prey, injuring other people. Relations between Herzog and the native people who worked with him were largely positive. However, other voices also accused the director of letting the indigenous people involved in the film live in poor conditions and only giving them a low wage.

References to reality

The figure of Fitzcarraldo was based on the wealthy rubber baron Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald , known as "Fitzcarraldo". As far as is known, however, the real Fitzcarraldo was not interested in opera and, furthermore, Enrico Caruso never sang in Manaus . However, Fitzcarrald also transported his ship over a mountain, but not as a whole, but in its individual parts. Fitzcarrald sailed from the Río Ucayali upstream into the Río Urubamba , then into the Río Inuya and had his ship carried there in parts over the isthmus that is named after him today . In reality, however, this required a much longer march than shown in the film. He actually employed hundreds of indigenous people for these companies, including Machiguenga , Asháninka , Yine and Shipibo-Conibo , with the number of victims significantly higher than those in the film. In addition, the cooperation of the indigenous people was not voluntary in reality. Herzog employed Indians from the Asháninka and Ashéninka ethnic groups, Machiguenga and a few Yaminahua and Yin, who played in their actual clothing and spoke their original language.

The free interpretation of the story and the choice of locations that were not true to the original resulted in some geographical inaccuracies: In reality, the Río Pachitea flows into the Río Ucayali and this forms the Amazon south of Iquitos together with the Marañón . Pachitea and Ucayali are, except at their confluence, never closer than about 50 kilometers, separated by the 700 to 1,500 meter high Cordillera del Sira mountain range. The mountain chosen as the shooting location is at 11 ° 44 ′ 20.2 ″  S , 72 ° 56 ′ 10.2 ″  W , 900 kilometers south of Iquitos and 400 kilometers southeast of Pucallpa . Because of the location, the direction of flow of the Río Ucayali is also wrong. On a wall map, the two rivers Río Pachitea and Río Ucayali can be seen, which flow in the same direction into the Amazon. Accordingly, after being pulled over the mountain, the ship would have to drift to the left downstream. In contrast to this, the scene in which the ship slides back into the water shows that the Ucayali flows to the right when viewed from the mountain. This has to do with the fact that the ship was actually pulled over the mountain from east to west in the film, contrary to the intention as she explains Kinski in the film (from west to east). In reality, the ship is being pulled from the Rio Camisea over to the Rio Urubamba. The two rivers are only about 700 meters apart as the crow flies.


The documentary The Last of Dreams by Les Blank describes the shooting in Peru. Archival recordings of Robards and Jagger can also be seen in Werner Herzog's 1999 documentation My Dearest Feind . In this film about the collaboration and friendship with Klaus Kinski, Werner Herzog talks to Claudia Cardinale and the photographer Beat Presser about Fitzcarraldo and says that the central scene of the ship being pulled over the mountain is an important metaphor - he just doesn't know , for what. Herzog also places this picture at the beginning of the above-mentioned records, as a “vision” that has “clung to him”. The film scholar Thomas Koebner interprets it as a visualization of the crisis in German film , which in the early 1980s was in a sluggish phase, if not at a standstill.

The ship

The Fitzcarraldo ship Molly Aida was 40 meters long and weighed 160 tons, an exact replica of a river steamer from the turn of the century. Werner Herzog sketched it on a piece of paper with a ballpoint pen in 1981. The ship drawing , as well as a storyboard drawing by the painter and filmmaker Henning von Gierke , (how the ship should be pulled from one source river of the Amazon to another with a pulling device over the mountain, implemented in the film); Herzog donated the 4-meter-long ship model of Molly Aida and many other props from his collection to the Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum for Film and Television . The ship that was built has been wrecked, rusting and overgrown by plants in the Brazilian region of Madre de Dios in the jungle for years .


Although Fitzcarraldo was shot by a German film team, the cast was international and many of the actors spoke no German. Therefore, all scenes had to be dubbed accordingly in German before the cinema premiere.

role actor German Dubbing voice
Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald ('Fitzcarraldo') Klaus Kinski Klaus Kinski
Molly Claudia Cardinale Rose-Marie Kirstein
Cholo Miguel Ángel Fuentes Wolf Goldan
Captain Orinoco Paul Paul Hittscher Bruce Low
Huerequeque, the cook Huerequeque Enrique Bohorquez Wolfgang Hess
Plantation owner Don Aquilino José Lewgoy Donald Arthur
Rubber baron Roy Polonah Wolfgang Buettner
Opera director Peter Berling Peter Berling



  • Lexicon of international film : "The cinematic realization of this adventure story gains charm and tension from the huge backdrop and the resistance of an exotic primeval landscape."
  • Christian David writes in his book Kinski. The biography : “In the final scene, Fitzcarraldo is sailing on his ship, an opera is being performed on a makeshift basis, Klaus Kinski smokes a large cigar - and he laughs, quite relaxed, just laughs away at all the brooding and heated elements of the Herzog Kinski films. Cardinale stands on the bank, looks and smiles at him because she also knows that someone has finally come to himself. One feels reminded of Falstaff Giuseppe Verdis , who at the end, after all his failures and errors, also bursts into great laughter - an albeit desperate dismantling of the exaggerated seriousness that wants to express: We are not dead yet, we are still laughing! And the wisdom of the Verdian Falstaff is also that of Herzog-Kinski's Fitzcarraldo, there is no longer any room for hunted and dogged things, and so this film is the culmination of the joint work, Fitzcarraldo's laughter counteracts what has happened so far, all outbreaks, curses, laughter is also one thing about yourself. You can no longer go back to this moment. It almost seems as if Fitzcarraldo had redeemed Kinski and Herzog in a cathartic act, the film was a break in the work of director and leading actor alike, it required a fresh start. This was one of the reasons why Cobra Verde , the last Herzog Kinski film, would fail. "
  • The German wave says in her film review: " Fitzcarraldo is weighty cinema that pushes the limits. Obsession, the will to move mountains in the truest sense of the word, the compulsion to turn a vision into reality - that's what this epic and drastic adventure drama is all about. "



  • Manfred Schäfer (Ed.): Because in reality we are forgotten. Conversations with Indians in the lowlands of Peru. Trickster, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-923804-02-4 .
  • Werner Herzog: Fitzcarraldo. Narrative. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1982, ISBN 3-446-13547-2 .
  • Ronald H. Dolkart: Civilization's Aria. Film as Lore and Opera as Metaphor in Werner Herzogs's Fitzcarraldo. (PDF; 9.1 MB) In: Journal of Latin American Lore 11 (1985), No. 2, pp. 125-141.
  • Lester Caltvedt: Herzog's Fitzcarraldo and the Rubber Era. In: Film & History 18 (1988), No. 4, pp. 74-84.
  • Lutz P. Koepnick: Colonial Forestry. Sylvan Politics in Werner Herzog's Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo. In: New German Critique 60 (1993), pp. 133-159.
  • John E. Davidson: Contacting the Other. Traces of Migrational Colonialism and the Imperial Agent in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. In: Film & History 24 (1994), No. 3/4, pp. 66-83.
  • Alonso Zarzar: De Fitzgerald a "Fitzcarraldo". Las míticas metamorfosis de un cauchero. In: Moisés Lemlij, Luis Millones, Dana Cáceres (eds.): Historia, memoria y ficción. Simposio Internacional "La Novela en la Historia y la Historia en la Novela". Reunió en octubre de 1995, Lima. Seminario Interdisciplinario de Estudios Andinos, Lima 1996, p. 548 ff.
  • Brad Prager: Werner Herzog's Hearts of Darkness. Fitzcarraldo, Scream of Stone and Beyond. In: Quarterly Review of Film and Video 20 (2003), pp. 23-35.
  • Holly Rogers: Fitzcarraldo's Search for Aguirre. Music and Text in the Amazonian Films of Werner Herzog. In: Journal of the Royal Musical Association 129 (2004), No. 1, pp. 77-99.
  • Roger Hillman: Unsettling Scores. German Film, Music, and Ideology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2005, ISBN 0-253-34537-5 , Fitzcarraldo chapter (1981). Pp. 140-146.
  • Richard Leppert: Opera, Aesthetic Violence, and the Imposition of Modernity: Fitzcarraldo. In: Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer, Richard Leppert (Eds.): Beyond the Soundtrack. Representing Music in Cinema. University of California Press, Berkeley et al. 2007, ISBN 978-0-520-25069-7 , pp. 99-119.
  • Richard John Ascárate: "Have You Ever Seen a Shrunken Head?" The Early Modern Roots of Ecstatic Truth in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. In: PMLA. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 122 (2007), No. 2, pp. 483-501.
  • Lilian Friedberg, Sara Hall: Drums along the Amazon. The Rhythm of the Iron System in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. In: Stephan K. Schindler, Lutz P. Koepnick (Eds.): The Cosmopolitan Screen. German Cinema and the Global Imaginary, 1945 to the Present. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2007, ISBN 978-0-472-09966-5 , pp. 117-139.
  • María del Carmen Rodríguez Rodríguez: Extranjeros en América Latina, aculturación y expolio: Fitzcarraldo. In: María Dolores Pérez Murillo (ed.): La memoria filmada. Historia socio-política de América Latina a través de su cine. La visión desde el norte. Iepala, Madrid 2009, ISBN 978-84-89743-50-2 , pp. 65-79.
  • Werner Herzog: Conquering the useless . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-596-18348-7 .
  • Jacob-Ivan Eidt: Aesthetics, Opera, and Alterity in Herzog's Work. In: CLCWeb. Comparative Literature and Culture 14 (2012), No. 1.
  • Will Lehman: A March into Nothingness. The Changing Course of Herzog's Indian Images. In: Brad Prager (Ed.): A Companion to Werner Herzog. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester et al. 2012, ISBN 978-1-4051-9440-2 , pp. 371-392.
  • A world in which ships fly over mountains . In: Der Spiegel . No. 35 , 1981 ( online ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Certificate of Release for Fitzcarraldo . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , May 2014 (PDF; test number: 52 985-a K).
  2. An essay for the film magazine "epd Film": The shooting and the film "Fitzcarraldo" with regard to violence ; P. 1
  3. IMDb Trivia
  4. Walter Saxer, in an interview on YouTube at the beginning of February 2012 .
  5. Adorf describes his experiences while filming Fitzcarraldo under the title Der Grenzgänger in his book: The Roman Snowball. True and made up stories . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2001, pp. 107–173.
  6. "How I once clashed with Fitzcarraldo's captain"
  7. ^ Christian David: Kinski. The biography. Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 2006, pp. 296–305.
  8. YouTube video: "Klaus Kinski - outburst of anger on the Fitzcarraldo film set"
  9. An essay for the film magazine "epd Film": The shooting and the film "Fitzcarraldo" with regard to violence ; P. 1
  10. ^ Christian David: Kinski. The biography. Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 2006, p. 307.
  11. IMDb Trivia
  12. W. Herzog: Conquest of the useless. Entry from February 18, 1981, p. 158.
  13. ^ W. Herzog, Eroberung des Nutzlosen , entry from 19./20. July 1979, p. 10.
  14. ^ W. Herzog, Eroberung des Nutzlosen , entries from January 6, 1981, p. 132, February 7, 1981, p. 141 fua
  15. IMDb Trivia
  16. IMDb Trivia
  17. ^ W. Herzog, Conquest of the Useless , "Prolog", p. 7.
  18. Der Tagesspiegel “Molly Aida” - Kinski, ahoy (Last Port Filmmuseum: A ship model from “Fitzcarraldo” docks at Potsdamer Platz) from January 20, 2009, accessed on July 31, 2020.
  19. The World of Fitzcarraldo Ship of 31. July 2010, accessed July 31, 2020.
  20. ^ Fitzcarraldo at the synchronous database
  21. ^ Fitzcarraldo. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  22. ^ Christian David: Kinski. The biography. Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 2006, pp. 306-307.
  23. ^ Fitzcarraldo . Deutsche Welle , June 17, 2010; Retrieved October 2, 2013