Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2006)

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Barmy
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#76 Post by Barmy » Mon Jul 09, 2007 12:05 pm

Think of all the people who have DIED because of Werner.

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Oedipax
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#77 Post by Oedipax » Mon Jul 09, 2007 3:10 pm

(crickets chirping)

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Antoine Doinel
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#78 Post by Antoine Doinel » Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:31 pm

To get this thread back on track, I saw the film tonight and was largely very impressed. Werner Herzog has created a Hollywood film using rhythms and structures that are completely his own. It was interesting watching some of the preview audience members shift in their seats because Herzog bravely forgoes typical Hollywood films of this type and really settles into his pace which often lingers on the seemingly innocuous. The result is something that approaches being rapturous, yet is compromised by the now cited ending, which is pure Spielberg, flag waving schmaltz. A very odd note in an otherwise surprisingly, apolitical film.

But this film would not have worked without Christian Bale who is better here than I've ever seen. His presence is phenomenal and utterly magnetic. Steve Zahn is also remarkable and I hope we see him in more dramatic roles. A very very good film that could've been astonishing, yet still one of the finest so far this year.

planetjake

#79 Post by planetjake » Tue Jul 10, 2007 5:31 pm

Interesting that so many have noted an uneasy audience. I saw it in Chicago not too long ago and there was a literal standing ovation!

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Antoine Doinel
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#80 Post by Antoine Doinel » Tue Jul 10, 2007 6:24 pm

planetjake wrote:Interesting that so many have noted an uneasy audience. I saw it in Chicago not too long ago and there was a literal standing ovation!
I would say most of the audience I saw it with loved the film but I think the Herzog pacing of the film threw some members of the audience for a loop who are more used the usual three-act structure.

The preview screening was also a little bit surreal because it was presented by a local top 40 radio station who decided to give away Bon Jovi CDs before the film. In order to win one, you had to go in front of the entire audience and sing any song you want. So it was a little strange to watch a mother and grown daughter duet on "That's Amore" (and getting the words wrong) prior to Rescue Dawn.

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jesus the mexican boi
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#81 Post by jesus the mexican boi » Tue Jul 10, 2007 7:00 pm

That's a new one for the Herzog Hall of Great Stories. Classic!

Here's my favorite, from The-Thread-What-Bears-His-Name:

I may have mentioned this before, but there's a great story from Herzog's wife Lena about being surprised at how well-known Herzog was in the U.S. They were living in California and were going to be moving. She called up some movers who had a company like, "Starving Student Movers," or some such. She told them the name and the kid on the line was like, "THE Werner Herzog?" And she said, "That depends on what you mean by 'THE' Werner Herzog." And the kid on the other end said, "The one who made Fitzcarraldo?" And she said, "Yes." The kid was silent for a moment, then asked, "Are we going to have to move a boat?"

Herzog didn't think it was funny.

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Barmy
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#82 Post by Barmy » Wed Jul 11, 2007 12:45 pm

Preview or fest screenings are more likely to attract people who know what they are getting into. As I said before, the (sparse) audience at my commercial theater booed.

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Antoine Doinel
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#83 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Jul 11, 2007 1:12 pm

Barmy wrote:Preview screenings are more likely to attract people who know what they are getting into.
Uh, not at all.

Most preview screenings are organized by ticket giveaways through radio stations (as noted above), alternative weeklies or websites. I would doubt if even ten people in the preview screening I was at had even seen a Herzog film before.

When I saw a preview screening of Hot Fuzz, tickets were being handed out at local video store nearby right up until the start time. They were at the counter for anyone who happened to feel like catching a free movie.

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Michael Kerpan
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#84 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jul 12, 2007 10:42 am

Not bad -- but if you've already seen the superior "Little Dieter Needs to Fly" not really "necessary".

If one hasn't seen LDNTF, this might come across a lot better. If it is even moderately popular, I hope it leads to a wider audience for Herzog's best work.

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tryavna
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#85 Post by tryavna » Sat Jul 28, 2007 12:27 pm

I caught this last night and have to say that I was somewhat disappointed. It's actually a rather good movie, but it's not what I want from a Herzog film. The plotty pacing just doesn't give Herzog enough room for those contemplative (or "ecstatic") moments that can become so hypnotic and powerful. In fact, it didn't really seem like a Herzog film at all except twice: (1) during the opening shot, with the "beautiful" bombing images; and (2) shortly after Bale and Zahn escape, during some of their initial interactions with the jungle. It also sorely misses that wonderful ending of Little Dieter Needs to Fly.

On the other hand, I actually didn't find the ending "flag-waving," per se. It's definitely schmaltzy. But I didn't read it as being a pro-America rah-rah moment. Instead, it struck me as being very much in tune with the latter half of the picture's main theme: that of loyalty/comradeship between men in battle (or extreme situations). It's really just a family reunion. At the same time, I am a bit troubled by the fact that Herzog allows the V-C to be protrayed in such a one-dimensional way. While it's acceptable in Little Dieter, due to its being recounted exclusively by the real Dieter himself, Herzog had a more pressing duty to distance Rescue Dawn from the Stallone/Rambo brand of POW movies -- which he does otherwise.

Ultimately, I have to agree with Antoine that the film belongs to Christian Bale and Steve Zahn, who are both superb. It's amazing just how much they communicate through their eyes during the scenes together in the jungle.

By the way, it's also extremely refreshing to see an action film that employs real action again -- instead of CGI effects. My impression is that that's largely why Herzog wanted to make this movie, and he succeeds. Anyone who's getting tired of the cartoon-like qualities of recent Hollywood action films really needs to check this one out (as well as Loach's Wind That Shakes the Barley).

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#86 Post by mogwai » Sun Jul 29, 2007 4:12 am

Saw this tonight. There's really nothing more that I can add that tryavna didn't already touch on. I thought it was phenomenal. Bale impresses me in everything he does, and his performance here was no exception, but it was Zahn who really floored me. Really hope he continues to take such dramatic roles.

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#87 Post by Slothrop » Fri Dec 14, 2007 4:52 am

As noted previously on here, there's a real strange tension in this between Hollywood convention and Herzogian anti-convention. I'm not sure it "works" completely, but its kind of fascinating.

The early scenes on the ship struck me as particularly awkward in terms of the actors' line readings. They feel at once both heavily scripted and spontaneous. I'm not sure how that happens.

The ending was somewhat schmaltzy but the schmaltz was at least earned.

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#88 Post by Cde. » Fri Dec 14, 2007 5:10 am

The film is quite incredible, and yes, Herzog's unconventional approach to such Hollywood material is interesting. Scenes that would normally be shot in a very focused style are instead conveyed with the slightly disconnected dreamlike approach Herzog is so fond of. You can also always feel the perspective of the author behind the showmanship, pondering the spectacle laid out before us. The audience is able to lose themselves in an action film, which is so rare these days. Also, the inspirational tone was certainly different from Herzog's usual cynical portrayals of tragic human folly.

I agree with Slothrop that the opening was quite awkward, as if Herzog didn't know how to approach this kind of material. As soon as the pan and zoom across the field Dieter crashes in appears the filmmaking is much more controlled; Herzog is back in familiar territory and obviously much more confident. The entire POW sequence is gripping and at times I was surprised by how moved I was. Steve Zahn's performance was indeed amazing. There's a sad acceptance of the circumstances you can see in his eyes that is heartbreaking. He does, along with Bale, dominate the film as has been said.

As for the ending, I found that the celebratory tone eventually became so strong that I felt myself being pulled out of my immersion in the world. A happy ending had been earned after all that came before so it was still acceptable, but once again when Herzog leaves the jungle behind and returns to the military he loses control.

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#89 Post by noelbotevera » Wed Dec 19, 2007 3:41 am

Little Dieter is the superior work, I agree, but this is an interesting little workpiece in a minor key--Herzog playing with the world's biggest train set for the first time. He comes up with odd effects, not the least of which is the ending.

Strangest of all, I wasn't the least surprised by the ending. Therre's a strong cynic inside Herzog that questions the US and its imperialistic tendencies the same time there's this sense of an outsider that very much wants to be invited in to pick up and wave a flag. It's as if Herzog, as a final gesture, gave in to that latter little person inside of him.
Last edited by noelbotevera on Fri Dec 28, 2007 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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geoffcowgill
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#90 Post by geoffcowgill » Thu Dec 20, 2007 1:11 am

Like tryavna, I disagree that the ending of Rescue Dawn is particularly flag-waving. The MC of Dieter's surprise party is clearly pimping for Dieter to give an inspiring speech that glorifies the American cause in VietNam. Doesn't he pointedly ask if it was thoughts of America that got him through, or something of that nature? Dengler's brief speech is not the rousing climax that that sweaty tubby guy clearly was gunning for nor what a traditional Hollywood rendering of this story would supply. Herzog seems to be pointedly refusing to make this a political statement and purely a celebration of endurance. There's no real patriotism or nationalistic propaganda at all from our protagonist at that point. As for the escape from the clutches of the CIA, that seems to be a Hawksian triumph of male camaraderie and teamwork. Though neither scene seems particularly typical of Herzog dramatically or stylistically, they certainly don't seem to be a betrayal or reversal of anything we've come to expect from his work thematically or philosophically.

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#91 Post by Cde. » Thu Dec 20, 2007 6:58 am

I think it's the music that pushes the final scene over the edge.

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Michael Kerpan
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#92 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Dec 20, 2007 9:57 am

I had no problem with the end, either -- for reasons well-articulated above. I frankly don't recall the music at the end -- so it must not have annoyed me (or not too much). Little Dieter is better -- but this is nothing for Werner to hang his head in shame over.

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#93 Post by Antoine Doinel » Thu Dec 20, 2007 1:23 pm

Well, it wouldn't be a Herzog film without a producer getting arrested.

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#94 Post by Tol_Venden » Thu Dec 27, 2007 3:42 pm

I watched Rescue Dawn about a month ago on Blu-ray. The performances were wonderful and the story, if sentimental, made for a nice film.

Then I researched the story of Dieter Dengler, including his own accounts of what took place, and I was disturbed at what Herzog did with the material. I was reminded of Ron Howard's treatment of James Braddock and Max Baer in the film Cinderella Man.

Rescue Dawn spends much of its considerable length lionizing Dengler while portraying Gene DeBruin as a raving lunatic / psychopath.

There is a lot of information about this topic available through a Google search. Here is the website run by Gene DeBruin's brother, Jerry, made in attempt to exonerate him.

That being said, even were it a work of fiction, Rescue Dawn falls into conventional territory. Sure, it isn't Chuck Norris but it's damned close at times. Coupling that with its fabricated story and it adds up to a very disappointing picture, especially for Herzog.

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John Cope
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#95 Post by John Cope » Tue Feb 12, 2008 2:05 am

One point about the ending: It felt strange to me, oddly insulated, probably for many of the reasons stated above. The best description I could give is that it felt like the construction of a conventional Hollywood ending by someone who has never seen one and has only had the general gist described to him.

As for the film itself, I thought it was excellent, though admittedly not particularly interested in what I usually look for from a Herzog film. I appreciate the effort though as I imagine that Herzog's intentions were to in some sense salvage the essence of the Hollywood model while emphasizing an additional dimension that contributes something more or alters our calcified responses a shade. In that he succeeded.

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#96 Post by hot_locket » Tue Feb 12, 2008 2:34 am

Tol_Venden wrote:Rescue Dawn spends much of its considerable length lionizing Dengler while portraying Gene DeBruin as a raving lunatic / psychopath.
I always disagree with people whenever they bring this up. I found Jeremy Davies' portrayal of Gene DeBruin to be very sympathetic, myself-- not this one-dimensional crazy that everyone makes him out to be. Herzog has admitted to being unaware of some accounts of DeBruin acting more valiantly then portrayed in the film until after it had been completed, otherwise he probably would have written it differently. As it is, Movie-DeBruin acts exactly how I would expect someone to act under the circumstances, no matter how great a man he may have been before being captured.

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