Burden of Dreams

Burden of Dreams is a 1982 "making-of" documentary film directed by Les Blank, shot during and about the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, and filmed on location in the jungles of Peru.

Burden of Dreams
Burden of Dreams (1982 poster - Monte Dolack).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLes Blank
Distributed byFlower Films
Release date
  • May 30, 1982 (1982-05-30)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguagesSpanish, English, German, Portuguese

Plot summaryEdit



Throughout production, director Les Blank and his small crew became exhausted and exasperated from the stress of the work. Blank said that he felt "unconnected to the people around me".[2] Keeping up with the antics of Herzog and Klaus Kinski (the film's star) proved difficult for the reserved, introverted Blank. By the last week of production, he was so burnt out that he feared coming out of production "like some Viet Nam veterans, horribly calloused". He wrote in his journal, "I'm tired of it all and I couldn't care less if they move the stupid ship – or finish the fucking film".[3]

Blank would often ask Herzog to repeat statements while being filmed that he originally made off-camera. In a 2009 interview with Jesse Pearson for Vice magazine, Blank was asked to recall a scene in the documentary showing Herzog delivering a monologue about the violence and destruction of the jungle around him. Blank says that the scene originally took place in the middle of a canoe ride, away from cameras, but he liked the speech enough to coax it out of Herzog again. "When the moment was right," Blank told Vice, "I pulled him aside and said, 'Can I do a little interview?' And he said, 'Sure.'" A friend of Blank's "led [Herzog] around to something that sparked him off on that tangent again. That's how we got the speech."[4]


On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 94% based on reviews from 17 critics.[5]

Roger Ebert awarded the film a full four stars, writing that "Blank [...] is unafraid to ask difficult questions and portray Herzog, warts and all".[6]

The film received the 1983 British Academy Film Award for Best Documentary and was named Best of Festival at the San Francisco Film Festival the same year.[7]

The film poster was created by Montana artist Monte Dolack.[8]


The Academy Film Archive preserved Burden of Dreams in 1999.[9]

See alsoEdit

Other documentaries about troubled movie productions:


  1. ^ Ian Aitken (January 2013). The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film. Routledge. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-415-59642-8.
  2. ^ Blank, Les; Bogan, James (1984). Burden of dreams : screenplay, journals, reviews, photographs. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-938190-17-2.
  3. ^ Blank, Les; Bogan, James (1984). Burden of dreams : screenplay, journals, reviews, photographs. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. pp. 112, 114. ISBN 978-0-938190-17-2.
  4. ^ Jesse Pearson; Jerry Hsu (2009-09-01). "Les Blank". Vice.com.
  5. ^ Burden of Dreams at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Burden of Dreams Movie Review (1982)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  7. ^ Benzine, Adam (5 February 2013). "Hot Docs to honour Blank". Playback. Brunico Communications.
  8. ^ "Burden of Dreams". Monte Dolack Fine Art. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  9. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.

External linksEdit