Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Little Dieter Needs to Fly is a documentary by Werner Herzog from 1997. I was very surprised to find it in a video rental store for sale.

It's about a German called Dieter Dengler who grew up with a passion for flight and emigrated to the U.S. and ended up becoming a pilot during Vietnam. The guy grew up in post-war Germany and one of the crazy things that the film showed was that he used to eat wallpaper from bombed out houses. He explained that there were nutrients in the glue so they would cook it and eat it. There was footage of people doing this. Herzog always manages to find all this fascinating footage. The music in the film was brilliant as well: opera and local Vietnamese music; really strange droning/chanting gave it a sort of hypnotic jungle feel.

Dieter takes us through his hardships right from his childhood until he gets shot down in Vietnam, becoming a prisoner and tortured. He manages to escape. It's an incredible story and inspired the film Rescue Dawn (by Herzog). I haven't seen that yet though.

With Herzog occasionally narrating they go back to Laos and Thailand and recreate footage with locals who were hired. Dieter makes a joke with one when he demonstrates what the Vietcong did to a thief who stole his wedding ring.. "It's only a movie. Don't worry" and then hugs him in a friendly, playful manner. The guy's acting out probably the darkest months of his life and still manages to find his sense of humour. It was so moving at times and showed that even after such an ordeal Dieter still has a passion for flying. At the end of the film Dieter's walking around this huge U.S airfield -- miles and miles of aircraft. I'm not sure where it is, but I think it's where the U.S put all their old gear.

The displays of bombing in the jungle from the air in this film are so powerful and impressive. It really makes you feel how safe it would in a cockpit rather than on the ground, which is where I guess Dieter must feel the safest throughout his life. After he gets rescued from the jungle he ends up having to sleep in one because he would just scream otherwise.

An aspect that is so interesting is how Dieter seems to have no grudge or even a niggle towards the Americans bombing Germany when he was a boy (who inspired him to initially become a pilot) or his captors. Dieter is a man who I think has a soul over natural thoughts and opinions due to his passion and goodwill. Usually intersting documentaries like this can be so depressing. That is not the case at all with this.

Today society is all about celebrity-driven culture. People are totally self-obsessed, constantly whining and pathetic. People like Dieter seem to be long lost myths. This documentary goes to show that men like Dieter Dengler really did exist for us to embrace and admire.  

"Narrator: Dieter took an early retirement from the armed forces and became a civilian test pilot. He survived four more crashes and flies to this day. Death did not want him."

It also comes with a 49min documentary by a guy who was the sole survivor of a Peruvian plane crash in 1971 -- Wings of Hope.

No comments: