In 1966, Dieter Dengler was shot down over Laos, captured, and, down to 85 pounds, escaped. Barefoot, surviving monsoons, leeches, and machete-wielding villagers, he was rescued. Now, near 60, living on Mt. Tamalpais, Dengler tells his story: a German lad surviving Allied bombings in World War II, postwar poverty, apprenticed to a smith, beaten regularly. At 18, he emigrates and peels potatoes in the U.S. Air Force. He leaves for California and college, then enlistment in the Navy to learn to fly. A quiet man of sorrows tells his story: war, capture, harrowing conditions, escape, and miraculous rescue. Where did he find the strength; how does he now live with his memories?
User Reviews: After I finished watching this intriguing documentary, I wondered; how much of Little Dieter was in Herzog, and vice versa? For Werner Herzog(and Dieter likewise) seemed capable of evoking a whole spectrum of human emotions in his works, however idiosyncratic they looked on the surface.
In this story of an American immigrant from Germany, who piloted a plane in Nam, got shot down, interned, escaped and survived, we got to see how the man lived, before, during and after this arduous period of ordeal. All that insurmountable pain and uphill battles might not have fazed the man, but it certainly took its toll. Memories of these experiences continue to haunt his being. Case in point, due in part to enduring that period of torture and starvation, the man now stocked his cellar with lotsa food in case he’s ever locked in….
Could the above have been a reason why Herzog chose to film this man? A man seemingly steeped in personality dysfunctions but was in fact merely a wounded man living his life, the only way he knew how? Could it be that Dieter’s story also somehow mirrored Herzog’s life and outlook? Damned if I am to know the answers to these universal mysteries…
Much had been said about the questionable sanity of Werner Herzog. But during my intensive devouring of his films over this last week, I began to see a pattern unravelling. This man had many profound insights to share with us all about humanity. And they often transcended intellectual boundaries. Through those intangibly twisted tales he weaved, he conveyed his ideas to us all lucidly, impactfully. And he did them all without ever gauzing the profusion in his bleeding heart. This man was never afraid of showing his earnest emotions nor was he afraid of breaking cinematic conventions. If one cared enough to be touched by the man, he or she will do so without safety nets. I did. Nice.
Yes, its no longer fashionable in these times of impenetrable cynicism to embrace a man like Werner Herzog. But I am fascinated by this psycho visionary nonetheless. And I will follow the man to the very pits of wherever he’s heading. As long as its somewhere I’m willing to go, that is….heh.