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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The White Diamond (2004)

Over the past couple of  decades Herzog has been gradually departing from film, and veering more towards Documentaries, with some spectacular results.

His most successful was probably Grizzly Man, which received numerous awards and is in my opinion a fascinating and a moving work. Other great docmunetaries he made over the past years include The Wheel Of Time, Encounters At The End Of The World, Lessons Of Darkness, My Best Fiend.......
Grizzly Man might be Herzogs most acclaimed documentary but in my mind it still doesn't surpass the brilliance that is The White Diamond, it does come close too surpassing it though...

The White Diamond is sadly not very well known, it was quite hard for me to find and I noticed that not many people were familiar with it.
Yet it is definitely worth discovering as it is a work of such beauty, majesty and humaneness, that it would be a crime not to see it.

The White Diamond is a great example of a very well made Documentary, it starts with an introductory film showing the beginnings of flight.
For that is what this is all about, flight, soaring above the canopy of the rainforest of Guyana, in a small, custom-made airship. That is Graham Dorrington's dream and has been for many years.
Dorrington is an aeronautical engineer from England, who has spent the past 11 years perfecting a unique tear-drop shaped, white airship.  

Dorrington is driven by the desire to achieve his dreams of flight, dreams which replaced his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut after he was maimed in an accident at the age of 14,  yet he is also haunted by a terrible accident that took place during a similar project, many years before.
In 2004 Dorrington and his small team were ready to set out to Guyana, they land at a small settlement called Menzies Landing, near the enormous Kaieteur Falls. Herzog and his small film crew accompany them.

What follows is an extraordinary look at a man in the process of accomplishing his dreams and overcoming his past.  Dorrington is a very likeable, well-spoken and thoughtful man and I was truly moved to by his story.

But the documentary isn't solely about Dorrington and his airship, Herzog takes time too explore the impressive Kaieteur Falls and the legends that surround them.
He also takes interest in the immense colony of Swifts that live in the cave behind the falls, footage of those birds flying through the air and launching themselves into freefall accompanied by the unusual yet beautiful Sardinian music which he was to use again in his later film, The Wild Blue Yonder.

In fact the whole documentary contains some stunning shots of the Falls, of approaching storms, and of course, of the rainforests canopy and the wonderful creatures that inhabit it.

The great images combined with the moving music which is perfectly chosen for each scene made this documentary a very beautiful and moving experience. But all that is without taking into consideration the human aspect of the documentary which is present throughout and is beautiful and moving yet in a very different way.
This is easily one of the most beautiful pieces of film ever produced, is it quite awe-inspiring and I doubt anything like it will be achieved again.The brilliant camera-work does much to make this film as great as it is,
many shots are simply beautiful and that I will surely remember for some time yet they are also very complex, the work of an extremely skilled camera-man.

Unlike other of Herzogs' works this documentary has a very positive feel to it, it celebrates man instead of condemning him and is just a film that has an overall simplistic goodness and beauty.
Nature seems to fill every aspect of the film in a pretty majestic way, it's just always there and always amazing to look at, the footage of the untouched canopy is particularly interesting. Yet it is also menacing, with violent storms and the tremendously powerful Falls.

Now I mentioned the Human side of the film was just as amazing as the visual aspects,  this is something quite rare these days when people seem to prefer style above substance. And when substance is included it is often dark, depressing, gritty, all that has it's place and many great films would fit those descriptions, yet every now and then I just love to watch a film that genuinely moves me in a positive way.

 I've deliberately left out several aspects of this film from my review such as the details of the accident that befell Dorrington, some of the people Herzog meets and places he visits, but all this deserves to be seen instead of read.
I recommend this documentary as highly as possible, especially if you are a fan of Herzog in general or his documentaries in particular.

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