Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dieter Dengler Needs To Fly

If facts were the only thing that counted, the telephone directory would be the book of books - Werner Herzog

I'm pretty sure I need to see Rescue Dawn again too. Maybe before Gone Baby Gone. I watched it in some earlier stages of my return (still pending) to normal human feeling. Full-body exhaustion, weakness, chemical withdrawal, and similar fun slices of lemon pie have made every viewing of a movie since November a kind of Zen-like, stoned overdrive. The movies mean a lot to me right now, and I interpret them through a lens of memory and regret (try quitting smoking while breaking your back at menial labor. Near as I can tell, that, on top of other things I'd already been grappling with, has been the culprit of my shortcomings lately).

Which brings me again to Herzog's previous film, one I didn't think of very often, until lately. It's a more or less plotless movie about trapped men, bonded slowly in insanity. That insanity is caused by the need to survive. Memories of cheeseburgers, home and freedom are all simply memories to those men.

When I was uhh... five or somethin', I was looking out the window, with my brother... and we see this fighter plane was coming right at us. I was not scared. I was mesmerized! Because for me, this pilot was this all-mighty being from the clouds. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be him. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be a pilot.

Dieter Dengler, as portrayed by Christian Bale, gives that description of a pivotal childhood moment, one that echoes a crucial scene from Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, where the thirteen year old protagonist sees American fighter planes fly over the camp he's interned in.

That thirteen year old protagonist was, of course, played by Christian Bale.

This is certainly a coincidence, as Rescue Dawn is based on fact (Empire of the Sun is based on a memoir). But Herzog doesn't care much for the difference between documentary and narrative, reality and unreality, and I'd prefer to believe it was supposed to happen that way.

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