Jordan Barbosa’s review published on Letterboxd:
It’s a funny thing that this film takes place smack dab in the middle of the Amazon because Fitzgerald is basically Jeff Bezos. He also resembles any other rich guy with big ideas that wants to force his culture and way of thinking onto others who aren’t nesacarilly asking for it (Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch... too many, really). He exploits poor workers, destroys the land, and can’t stop talking about his damn upper-class love of opera even though no one cares. He’s the distillation of every out of touch rich guy that claims to know the answer for society’s problems. I mean there’s a scene of Fitzgerald celebrating as his workers are literally crushed to death by the process of production. That’s a pretty blatant metaphor!
(I watched this on Prime btw so I guess I’m a hypocrite. Oh well...)
Of course, he also resembles a tyrant, toxic fandom, and most blatantly an obsessive artist looking to perfect his dream. This would be Herzog himself making what is essentially a sequel to Aguirre, Wrath of God. Both films center around a character played by Klaus Kinski with the obsession of conquering nature and creating something beautiful in its stead. Kinski plays the Herzog analog in both as his filmmaking has the exact same goal. (And while I’m not sure how exploitative he was in making these, I do know it caused some tension. Still need to see Les Blank’s doc to get educated.)
There’s an ideological genius to the entire concept that reveals the nature of society in a chilling way, but as the boat begins to ascend the hill, the film begins to falter. The structure becomes disjointed, making it seem like a dull series of events. And the message of conquest gets jumbled too as it seems like Herzog doesn’t know what to say about Fitzgerald’s journey.
I don’t think Herzog has ever been my favorite of the German New Wave trio (Fassbinder and Wenders are too good), but his exuberance with style and and the camera is always exhilarating to watch. Plus I’ll choose to read the finale of the film not as Fitzgerald “winning” but as a delusional victory. It’s another way he’s much like Aguirre, even though that film the punctuation was much better utilized.