Werner Herzog’s heart and soul belongs to the jungles of the world, and in The White Diamond he follows airship engineer Dr. Graham Dorrington into Guyana’s Amazon canopy where the doctor, first revealed as a bug-eyed, fast-talking eccentric, hopes to study the area’s uncharted treetops and wildlife. But in Herzog’s 40-year-plus career, he’s never filmed or documented a mission that doesn’t reconfigure itself once it has been set into motion, and Dorrington’s operation is no exception: Under Herzog’s ephemeral and watchful lens, what begins as a run-of-the-mill science experiment unspools as a heartbreaking spiritual journey. Haunted by the horrible 1992 death of his cinematographer friend Dieter Plage (not to be confused with the Dieter Dengler of Herzog’s 1998 doc Little Dieter Needs to Fly), Dorrington sets out to conquer the canopy around the Kaieteur Falls in Guyana, where locals—most of them English-speaking Rastafarians—excavate the jungles for medicinal herbs and leaves and tend to the secret micro-environment behind the falls like some effigy. Possibly the coolest director who has ever lived, Herzog follows people into unfamiliar parts of the world, plumbing their deepest emotional and spiritual obsessions and summoning a special kind of visual magic from modernity making contact with nature. In White Diamond, man and nature slightly rub against each other, and it’s the friction from this contact that makes for the film’s most astounding images, like Dorrington’s airship dipping into the waters of the Amazon and quickly lifting into the air, fearful of the powerful currents beneath. It’s almost like Dorrington has learned from the follies of the conquistadors of Herzog films like Aguirre, Wrath of God and Cobra Verde, which is why, I suppose, the man’s human-powered airship is so in tune with the geography of Guyana: It’s in the shape of a diamond, which locals excavate nearby, and like Herzog’s camera, seems to observe the ecosystem of the region from a reverential distance, as if it too understood that this beautiful environment isn’t something that can or should be tamed.
- Werner Herzog Filmproduktion
- 88 min
- Werner Herzog
- Graham Dorrington, Mark Anthony Yhap, Anthony Melville, Michael Wilk, Jan-Peter Meewes, Jason Gibson, Red Man (The Rooster)
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