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arsaib4
12-09-2005, 03:07 AM
In the simple, yet engaging The White Diamond, one of three Werner Herzog documentaries released in the U.S. this year, the German filmmaker explores yet another eccentric personality: British aeronautics expert Dr. Graham Dorrington. While Dorrington would be considered the epitome of sanity if compared to Timothy Treadwell, Herzogís subject from Grizzly Man, his past also bares a few haunts that drive him toward his current obsession -- which is to navigate the Amazon canopy that exists around Kaieteur Falls in Guyana, S. America in his newly invented helium-filled airship. As expected, Herzog initially provides us with a few notes on airships that were once known as "Zeppelins" (based on the name of the German inventor Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin). These gigantic balloon-shaped objects were popular mechanisms for travel, and even war, in the early 1900ís, but after the Hindenberg disaster in 1937, they were more or less discontinued. And then itís learned that Dorrington not only lost a few fingers in a childhood accident (preventing him to fulfill his dream of becoming an astronaut), but his dear friend was killed a few years back when he attempted to test a similar airship. However, once we move from London to Guyana, Herzog finds much more that suits his interest, making one discern that perhaps Dorrington just didnít turn out to be as "interesting" as the filmmaker expected. Nevertheless, after a few early mishaps (one involving Herzogís persistence to be with the inventor in his first flight), the mission goes through. Herzog picks up a local Rastafarian in between, the one who named the airship "The White Diamond," to poetically philosophize about the surrounding milieu, which is breathtaking to say the least. And itís captured magnificently with some imaginative shots, the last of whom features a horde of birds flying around a secret which Herzog rightfully chose to withhold.

Grade: B
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*THE WHITE DIAMOND premiered around the festival circuit late last year. The film received a limited theatrical run in the U.S., and is now available on DVD (http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B000AQ68XC.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg).

Howard Schumann
02-06-2006, 11:03 AM
However, once we move from London to Guyana, Herzog finds much more that suits his interest, making one discern that perhaps Dorrington just didnít turn out to be as "interesting" as the filmmaker expected. I can't imagine what you are talking about here. The film's focus is entirely on Dorrington and his struggles to complete his experience of the past and to move on. Herzog only digresses in order to give Dorrington some breathing room and time to be with his thoughts.

Anyway, here is my review (seen twice last week)

THE WHITE DIAMOND

Directed by Werner Herzog (2004)

Werner Herzog's The White Diamond, a documentary about the exploits of Dr. Graham Dorrington, an engineer at St. Mary's College in London, England, might have been called "Little Graham Needs To Fly". Dorrington is a solitary dreamer who is eager to explore wilderness areas and tropical rain forests in a helium-filled airship. In particular, he wants to explore the rainforest canopy of Guyana and Werner Herzog brings his camera and his best narrative voice along for the ride. The film is both the story of a man and his dreams and an ode to an unspoiled wilderness that has so far withstood man's insatiable need for "progress".

Like other Herzog films I have seen recently, there are moments of involving action pitting man against nature, along with stretches of dullness and sudden outbursts of enormous beauty. Just to watch the flocks of swifts fly in formation above Kaieteur Falls, a waterfall four times the height of Niagara, backed by the cello of Ernst Reijseger and the chorus of the Tenore E Cuncordu de Orosei, is an experience in itself worth the price of admission.

The film begins with a brief overview of the history of flight including scenes of the horrific crash of the Hindenburg Zeppelin in Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937, a tragedy that ended the dream of travel in lighter than air vehicles. The film then shifts to Guyana where Dorrington is in the process of assembling a two-person airship to help him make his journey and confront his past demons. Dieter is a thoughtful man though given to childlike outbursts of enthusiasm. He dreams of "drifting with the motors off in the peace and quiet, quietly floating above these forests in the mist". Though Herzog seems to want to portray all his protagonists as slightly mad, Dorrington appears too grounded to fulfill the director's wishes. His purpose contains elements of both inner and outer exploration. He wants to move on from a tragic accident that occurred eleven years ago when his friend and companion Dieter Plage was killed while flying one of his airships.

Dorrington is reluctant at first to discuss Dieter and his tragic end, but later recounts in agonizing detail the precise details of the accident for which he blames himself. In a scene later revealed to have been staged, Herzog and Graham argue about whether cameras should be allowed on the test flight of his airship christened The White Diamond by a local miner, but Herzog prevails because he fears that it may be the only flight that will take place. We sense throughout the early part of the film that any flight is dangerous and extreme precautions are taken to ensure safety. There are other peripheral characters that we have come to expect from Herzog.

A young cook does a Michael Jackson dance to hip hop music while standing on the edge of a cliff and we meet Mark Anthony Yhap, a diamond miner whose eloquent philosophy contrasts sharply with the more inner-directed Dorrington and he waxes poetic when talking about his beloved rooster. Yhap is a Rastafarian, an African religion that believes that Haile Sellassie is the living God. Yhap wants to fly so that he can visit his family in Spain whom he hasn't seen in many years and his contact information appears in the credits. All this is peripheral to the main event, however, and as we soar over the rainforest, we forget Herzog's description of nature as "a brutal place full of murder and cruel indifference" and simply bathe in its majesty.

GRADE: A-

NOTE: If anyone can provide me with information about how I can obtain the soundtrack for this film, I will be forever in your debt.

arsaib4
02-06-2006, 05:48 PM
The film's focus is entirely on Dorrington and his struggles to complete his experience of the past and to move on. Herzog only digresses in order to give Dorrington some breathing room and time to be with his thoughts.

Initially, yes, but that was not the case after the scene shifted to Guyana. There were sequences Ė involving Yhapís chickens, the locals the filmmaker tried to impress, etc. Ė that were merely fill-ins. If Herzog allowed his protagonist to have some breathing room, then there wouldn't have been so many shots that lingered on his face, waiting for him to react to something. Those didn't do much for me, and, I think, that was also the case for Herzog. But, overall, I still liked the doc.

As far as I know, the original soundtrack doesnít exist at this point. However, I was able to locate the soundtrack credits (http://www.wernerherzog.com/main/de/html/films/films_details/general.php?film_id=51). Winter & Winter label holds the rights, and after searching their website, it looks like 4 of the 6 tracks came from the album listed at the bottom of this page (http://www.winterandwinter.com/index.php?id=211). An e-mail address (info@winterandwinter.com) is available for more info.

Howard Schumann
02-06-2006, 08:03 PM
Originally posted by arsaib4


Initially, yes, but that was not the case after the scene shifted to Guyana. There were sequences Ė involving Yhapís chickens, the locals the filmmaker tried to impress, etc. Ė that were merely fill-ins. If Herzog allowed his protagonist to have some breathing room, then there wouldn't have been so many shots that lingered on his face, waiting for him to react to something. Those didn't do much for me, and, I think, that was also the case for Herzog. But, overall, I still liked the doc.

As far as I know, the original soundtrack doesnít exist at this point. However, I was able to locate the soundtrack credits (http://www.wernerherzog.com/main/de/html/films/films_details/general.php?film_id=51). Winter & Winter label holds the rights, and after searching their website, it looks like 4 of the 6 tracks came from the album listed at the bottom of this page (http://www.winterandwinter.com/index.php?id=211). An e-mail address (info@winterandwinter.com) is available for more info. Thanks very much for your comment and for the soundtrack information. I will see if I can download it from Soulseek,