What I’m Reading.

Conquest of the Useless: Reflection From the Making of ‘Fitzcarraldo,’ by Werner Herzog, the German-born filmmaker’s reflections — drawn from his journal — on the making of what amounts to one hell of an impossible film.

P. 195 (from the first edition hard cover):

Mauch was operated on by Dr. Parraga, with our extraordinarily skillful cook putting in the sutures. Since all the anesthesia had been used up during the almost eight hours it took to operate on the two people wounded by arrows, Mauch was soon in agony, and even analgesic spray did not do much good. I held his head and pressed it against me, and a silent wall of faces surrounded us.

Mauch said he could not take any more, he was going to faint, and I told him to go ahead. Then he thought he was going to shit in his pants from the pain, but he could not decide between the two options, and in the end did neither. On a hunch I sent for Carmen, one of the two prostitutes we have here because of the woodcutters and boatmen. She pushed me aside, buried Mauch’s head between her breasts, and comforted him with her lovely soft voice. She rose above her everyday existence, developing her inner Pietà, and Mauch soon fell silent. During the operation, which lasted almost two hours, she said over and over, ‘Thomas, mi amor,” to him, while the patient yielded to his fate. As I stood watching, I felt a deep affection for them both.


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