Roger Ebert: I see so many movies that are all the same, they’re cut off like sausages, you get another two hours worth and then you go home and you forget about them. Your films expand me, they exhilarate me, they make me feel that you are trying to put your arms around enormous ideas. And at the same time there’s a feeling of hopelessness. I think of Aguirre on the sinking raft, in the middle of the river, mad, surrounded by gibbering monkeys. And Fitzcarraldo, who wanted to pull the ship across the mountain into the other river. Only you would have thought that it would have to be done with a real ship. It couldn’t be models or special effects.
Werner Herzog: It was disgusting actually because at that time 20th Century Fox was interested to produce a film and we had a very brief conversation of about five sentences because it was clear their position was, “You have to do it with a miniature boat.” From there on it was clear no one in the industry would ever support something like that. It was really risky, and I knew, at that moment, I was alone with it. I tried to explain that I wanted to have the audience know that at the most fundamental level it was real. Today when you see mainstream movies, in many moments, even when it’s not really necessary, there special effects. It’s a young audience, and at six and seven kids can identify them, they know it was a digital effect, and normally they even know how they were done. But I had the feeling I wanted to put the audience back in the position where they could trust their eyes …
Roger Ebert: It’s totally clear in that film that it’s a real ship and that the ropes are straining. If you look at “Lord of the Rings” for example, they have people in a chain stretched across mountainsides, and they’re obviously special effects. But in “Cobra Verde,” your film in Africa, you had a message that was being passed down a line of people for miles and miles, and it was really happening. The people were there in an endless chain on the hillsides. It’s clear that it’s really happening, and it’s extraordinary.
Werner Herzog: There is a certain quality that you sense when you move a ship over a mountain. It was 360 tons and I knew I would manage it. But I knew that it would create unsightly things that no one would expect. There were many huge steel cables that are five centimeters in diameter, I mean as thick as this table. They would break like a thin thread. When you tap them before they break, when you touch them and tap them, they sound thick, they sound different, and when they break, there’s so much tension, there’s so much pressure, that the cable is red hot inside, it’s glowing inside. That was one thing I didn’t show in the film but I’ve seen it and many of the things that you see in “Fitzcarraldo” were created by the events themselves. I’ve always been after the deeper truth, the ecstatic truth, and I will always defend that, as long as there’s breath in me.