Film Fest Friday: Rescue Dawn


This is one of my favorite movies. Werner Herzog is my all-time favorite film director, and whether he is directing a documentary or a feature film, or a hybrid of both, his work is just outstanding. I’m sure real film snobs — I mean, buffs — will probably turn their nose up at that, but I’ll take Werner over Fellini or Godard any day. I very rarely watch special features on DVDs, but with his films, I am so enthralled by the time the movie ends, I just want more and more Werner. (Yes, I feel like we should be on a first-name basis. LOL!)

I love his accent and his gentle way of speaking. I love how he gets right in there with his actors and doesn’t ask them to do anything he hasn’t tried first. I love the way he understands the importance of a film score, and how he always seems to choose the exact right musicians to create the soundtracks for his films. Werner is a “seeker of greater truths,” and because of that he’s able to subtly coax from a seemingly simple story the finer details that lead to the larger picture. He encourages us to question and examine human consciousness and the strangeness of civilization. And I like his interest in tales of survival, and the way nature usually has a starring role in his films.

I’m still working my way through his filmography. So far, I’ve seen Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, Fitzcarraldo, and Rescue Dawn. And bunches of interviews. I’ve padded my Netflix queue with several more to watch in the near future. Recently I watched Rescue Dawn for a second time with my friend Swamp while he was recovering from an emergency appendectomy (there’s one thing that made him sit still!), and he liked it so much he has added it to his “Top 5” movies list.

Rescue Dawn is the movie version of Werner’s documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. It’s the story of a man who was shot down over Laos while flying in a classified mission before the Vietnam War started. He ended up escaping from a POW camp and surviving in the jungle until the Air Force finally came and rescued him. What is truly remarkable about the story, though, is that Dieter’s upbeat personality and unfailing positive attitude were what carried him (and many others) through a horrendous situation. Talk about inner strength.



  1. Jessica said,

    August 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Adding it to my netflix queue – loves me a good war story!

  2. grantmasterflash said,

    August 17, 2009 at 9:25 am

    If you like Klaus Kinski in ‘Fitzcarraldo’, you may enjoy him in Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ and ‘Nosferatu’. I really admire Herzog as well and have seen all the ones you listed, except for ‘Rescue Dawn’. I need to get on that.

    I was introduced to Herzog via this article from some years ago (unfortunately the full text is not available online) and immediately had to track some of his movies down:

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