Daily Dose Pick: Conquest of the Useless

Conquest of the Useless chronicles Werner Herzog’s disastrous attempt at shooting his 1982 epic Fitzcarraldo in the Amazon rainforest.

Herzog’s persistence in the face of endless setbacks — cast changes, a border war, environmental complications, the all-but-impossible task of leveraging a steamship over a hillside — is unsurprising from a man who willingly ate his own shoe after losing a bet. The journal offers a candid peek at the audacious spirit and self-referencing paranoia of an acclaimed yet controversial filmmaker.

The book isn’t so much a memoir as a wholesale reprint of the director’s nightmarish account of his failed excursion. In the vein of Terry Gilliam’s Lost in La Mancha, the ill-fated project was also documented by Les Banks for his documentary Burden of Dreams — but unlike the latter film, Conquest reveals the inner struggles and pitiless frustration of the sinking ship’s stubborn captain.

Visit Herzog’s website, brush up on the movie’s history, read Time‘s interview with Herzog about the experience, and buy the book.


Werner Herzog on the obscenity of the jungle


Burden of Dreams excerpt


Green Apple Books’ (silly) homemade Conquest trailer