Thursday, October 29, 2009
Little Deiter Needs to Fly
I took an entire class on documentary film while I was at film school and though I was forced to watch many influential films in that class I don’t think I have ever seen a documentary by Werner Herzog. I’ve seen a few of his narrative films, but nothing else; the entire reason I added Little Dieter Needs to Fly to my Netflix is because I saw Rescue Dawn and the character of Dieter Dengler was absolutely fascinating.
Let me first say that this is the kind of documentary that people make fun of. What I mean by this, is that while there is nothing wrong with this film, it has every stereotype the average person imagines when they think of documentary film – the low budget, video look, rambling story in loosely connected scenes, and Herzog’s German accent as he narrates the film probably pushes it over the edge. However, if you are paying attention you’ll understand why Herzog became fascinated with Dengler, so fascinated he turned his story into a feature film.
Dieter Dengler survived hell. He immigrated from Germany post WWII because Germany had no pilot training program in their military, so he became an American citizen, joined the Air Force & quickly learned he wouldn’t be a pilot there so he got his college degree, joined the Navy, became a pilot and while he was serving in Vietnam he was shot down over Laos and spent a very long time as a POW. The only reason he’s alive is because he managed to help mastermind an escape with his fellow prisoners, but once in the jungle they were all separated and Dengler was the only survivor to be rescued. His story is so astounding it has to be a movie.
After watching Little Dieter Needs to Fly and seeing the man himself I am even more astounded by the performance of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. Except for Christian Bale being much more appealing to look at Bale and Dengler could be the same person; Bale perfected Dengler’s accent, his movements, his diction – everything. I have no idea how he does it.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of Little Dieter Needs to Fly it was enjoyable, and at under 90 minutes it was a quick watch. I do think I am going to have to watch another of Herzog’s documentaries though as this one mainly felt like a special feature you would put on the Rescue Dawn DVD.
Director & Writer: Werner Herzog
Dieter Dengler: Duane, my friend, he was gone, and from then on my motions, my progress, became mechanical. In fact, I couldn't care less if I would live or die. But then later on, there was this bear, this beautiful bear that was following me. It was circling me in fact sometimes. It was gone and I missed it. It was just like a dog, it was just like a pet. Of course I knew this bear was there, he was waiting to eat me. When I think about it, this bear meant death to me. And it is really ironic. That's the only friend I had at the end, was death.