Thursday, January 7, 2016

The White Diamond

Dr. Graham Dorrington is a man seemingly made to be a protagonist in a Werner Herzog movie. An obsessive, like all Herzog's leading men, he's the star of the documentary The White Diamond, about his determinedly flying a small airship (part hot air balloon, part blimp) over the trees in the rainforests of Guyana in South America. An aeronautical engineer still haunted by the decade old tragedy of losing his friend Dieter Plager in a flying accident. Herzog journeys with Dorrington from his lab outside London to the jungles of South America, where Herzog must be quite comfortable by now. Helped by some English speaking Rastafarians, Dorrington is obsessed with getting his little airship to fly like he wants it to. Seeing the ecstacy on Dorrington's face when he returns from a successful flight quickly fade into his guilt at Dieter not being there is heartbreaking and one of the great Herzog moments.

I could watch Herzog documentaries all day. That beautiful, wonderful voice of his guiding us along various different paths. Herzog has said that it would've felt wrong to have another voice narrating his documentaries. They're his films, so it should be his voice reflecting the artistic vision of the movie. While this movie has some of Herzog's trademark poetic images, my favorite being that of thousands upon thousands of birds flying into a cave beneath a waterfall, it's definitely "lesser" Herzog. Dorrington isn't as fascinating a character as those Herzog has captured before. Still, "lesser" Herzog is still better, more interesting, and more fulfilling than just about any other filmmaker.

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