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The White Diamond (2004)

Director: Werner Herzog, Werner Herzog
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Fox Lorber
Genre: Documentary, Foreign, Biographies, Film, UK
Running Time: 90 min.
Languages: English
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Werner Herzog once again turns his eye on the beautiful and dangerous wilds of the Amazon in this documentary. Dr. Graham Dorrington is a scientist who specializes in designing experimental aircraft, and in 1992 he invented a unique man-powered airship intended to travel into the Amazon canopy of Guyana, with the goal studying the medicinal herbs said to grow there. However, Dorrington's aircraft proved to be flawed, and an accident on its first voyage into the Amazon claimed the life of Dieter Plage, a filmmaker and close friend of Dorrington who had tagged along to document the journey. Ten years later, Herzog joined Dorrington as he returned to the Amazon canopy and explored the beautiful but forbidding rivers and forests, visited the people who live there, and recalled the accident that claimed his friend's life. The White Diamond was the opening night attraction at the 2004 Taiwan Documentary Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

"It seems that now, finally, recognition has arrived at Werner Herzog's feet, and for an inveterate, lifelong Herzogian (alright, since adolescence), his current presence in the cultural forebrain is something of a vindication." So begins an appreciation of one of cinema's great and true iconoclasts from Michael Atkinson. Full article >>

GreenCine Member Reviews

Diamond in the Rough by talltale April 25, 2006 - 7:08 AM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Another Werner Herzog documentary about obsessive strivers, THE WHITE DIAMOND has no Timothy Treadwell and grizzlies to shock and fascinate. But if you watch and listen to this quiet film (airships are no match for marauding carnivores in the "excitement" department), you may experience an ever deeper and more magical journey into this strange filmmaker's universe.

Great beauty is here (the airship floating above the jungle); death is present too, and while the latter is only spoken of--sadly and quietly--it resounds. So does the story of Marc Anthony, his family in Spain and his rooster, of all things! Most special, for me, was the home of the swifts, the flock of seemingly numberless birds that live behind the great waterfall of Guyana.

A cameraman, risking life & limb, climbs down a rope to get a view of this never-before-seen spot. Herzog chooses not to show us the actual film, honoring the wishes of the natives. Normally, this would seem foolish, crazy; here it's perfect, adding the proper layer of reticence and mystery to one of Herzog's least seen--perhaps best--films. In any case, what we viewers are allowed to experience is gift enough. ZenBones' review (below) gives this documentary and its auteur full justice.

Ecstasy by ZenBones January 15, 2006 - 9:13 PM PST
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Herzog's films are often about rulebreakers, visionaries and daredevils, something which he has always been himself. Being a daredevil flirting with death makes one feel alive, which is no small thing, but being a daredevil flirting with something even larger than death, is ecstasy. In this film, Herzog, his film crew and a small band of scientists headed by aeronautical engineer Graham Dorrington, head off to a remote area of Guyana to fly a newfangled zeppelin just a toe's length above the treetops of the jungle. Dorrington has his legitimate reasons for the usefulness of his invention, as does Herzog in documenting what may be an important new discovery in science and technology. But both of these men, as well as us in the audience, see these men's laughably primitive jabs at besting nature shrunken by the grandeur of the nature surrounding them. From the fierce power of the waterfall where they are camped out, to the unfathomable grace and sheer numbers of the birds who dwell behind it, the plight of two little men in a motorized air balloon is almost comical. I say almost because a man died in such an attempt ten years earlier - a scene that is described in chillingly vivid detail by Dorrington. Also, there is a kind of nobility in man's stubborn desire to defy his relatively scrawny limitations against nature. Whether it's Fitzcarraldo dragging a steamship over a mountain, Herzog himself trying to make the steamship climb the mountain for his film, or Dr. Dorrington sailing the skies in a contraption that seems as fragile as a butterfly, the dream is everything. The dreams of Herzog's characters - be they real or fictional - are usually short-lived, but at least the dreams do come alive briefly. If I could sum up everything that is great in Herzog's films, it would be in one awesome scene in this film where Herzog shoots the upside-down reflection of the mighty waterfall in a falling drop of rain. This moment, this reflection, this drop of rain is as temporary as life, but in it is the entire universe in all of its beauty, majesty and fragility. If that's not ecstasy, I don't know what is!

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(Average 7.75)
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