15 August 2009

The Decade List: The White Diamond (2004)

The White Diamond - dir. Werner Herzog

If 2005's Grizzly Man displayed Herzog's wry meditation on the destructive, inalterable makeup of nature, The White Diamond offers the flip-side. Making himself a very involved presence (more visably than in Grizzly Man), Herzog joins Dr. Graham Dorrington, a British aerospace engineer, at the Kaieteur Falls of Guyana to test Dorrington's helium airship invention. The expedition comes with a shroud of melancholy and a suggested despondence as a similar excursion took the life of Dorrington's close friend Dieter Plage ten years prior.

Herzog, never the unbiased onlooker, finds a remarkably different view of the relationship between man and the natural world in The White Diamond. Chatting with the locals, filming Dorrington's bittersweet recollections of Plage as well as the team's oscillating failures and successes, Herzog discovers a sort of harmony Timothy Treadwell foolhardily believed to exist in this world. The White Diamond is sumptuously beautiful, visually of course, but the film's weight, a central theme both literally and figuratively, stems from Herzog's invigorating portrait of the healing and fortifying power that the natural world can (sometimes) provide.

Screenplay: Rudolph Herzog, Annette Scheurich; story by Rainer Bergomaz, Marion Pöllmann; commentary by Werner Herzog
Cinematography: Henning Brümmer, Klaus Scheurich
Music: Ernst Reijsiger, Eric Spitzer
Country of Origin: Germany/Japan/UK
US Distributor: Wellspring

Premiere: 13 November 2004 (Cinemanet Europe Opening Festival)
US Premiere: 30 April 2005 (San Francisco International Film Festival)

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