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"Little Dieter" leads Herzog to "Rescue Dawn"

Posted at 12:21 PM on July 5, 2007 by Euan Kerr

Herzog, Zahn, and Bale discuss "Rescue Dawn" (Image courtesy Gibralter Films)

NPR film critic Bob Mundello's review of "Rescue Dawn" reminds me we are about to see the results of another Werner Herzog cinematic obsession.

In 1997 Herzog released "Little Dieter needs to fly" a documentary about Dieter Dengler, a German boy who became obsessed with flying after watching Allied fighter planes as his hometown was reduced to rubble during World War II. He later emigrated to the US and joined the US Navy, which shipped him out to Vietnam. While flying a mission over Laos he was shot down, and ended up a prisoner of the North Vietnamese army. After enduring torture and imprisonment in a bamboo cage he escaped.

For "Little Dieter" Herzog took Dengler back to Laos to recreate his ordeal. The film won many awards.

Now Herzog is retelling the story as a feature film. "Rescue Dawn" stars Christian Bale and Steve Zahn.

The New Yorker magazine published an amazing story about the lengths Herzog pushed his actors and himself, tying it into a fascinating examination of Herzog's quirks and obsessions.

I am now hunting down the documentary which I have not seen. I want to see it before "Rescue Dan opens in Minnesota July 20th. (The film opened in New York and LA yesterday, and then goes on wider release July 13th.)

Herzog documentaries, such as "Grizzly Man" and "White Diamond" are so much stranger than fiction. His fictional films take reality to different storytelling levels too. The prospect of watching him play one form off the other is very appetizing.

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