Little Dieter Needs to Fly review by Rosie

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

A few months ago I came to you, practically frothing at the mouth, with word of the must-see movie of this and several other non-consecutive summers, Rescue Dawn. If you thought perhaps time would have tempered my enthusiasm any by now, you would be as mistaken as you probably usually are. If anything, the entire Rescue Dawn experience has been retroactively bolstered for me now that I was finally able to get my hands on the documentary prequel to it, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Here, as promised in that previous love letter, is the follow up review for it.

Ten years before his rousing, theatrical tribute to the life of Dieter Dengler, director Werner Herzog quietly delivered to the world his first, more humble attempt to share Dengler’s story in the quirkily titled, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. At the time it came out, Christian Bale was appearing on Playstation 1s and Sega Genesises nationwide as the voice of Thomas in the video game version of Disney’s Pocahontas. Steve Zahn was mistakenly believing that Hollywood would really start to take him seriously following a feature role in the mildly-acclaimed That Thing You Do. (Though not as mistakenly as Tom Everett Scott did.) And Jeremy Davies was preparing for a part in Saving Private Ryan that he was hoping would be strong enough to make everyone forget that he had just been in Twister. And during all this (based on the reasoning that I never heard about it so no one else did either) I’m guessing that none of them, at that time, caught the moving little documentary that would eventually bring the three of them together in the jungles of Thailand to recreate one of the most miraculous stories of survival ever told.

Since your future is likely to be much less directly affected by this movie, you can be forgiven if you had never heard of this most inspiring lesson in sticktoitiveness. But now that you have heard of it, you have no more excuses. Little Dieter Needs to Fly is an astounding tale of tragedy and survival, made so primarily by the attitude of the man who lived through it all and yet seems as if he couldn’t be happier with every bit of his life. If I have one suggestion for improving this movie, it would be too perhaps fiddle around some more with the title. Below are my suggestions for some more appropriate titles to try:

Little Dieter Needs to Show Some Vulnerabilty: Seriously – he’s making me feel like a jackass for ever complaining about anything that has ever happened to me in my stupid, little life. From the first moment he comes bounding into the frame to the last shot we see of him as the camera’s pull away from “heaven for pilots”, Dieter Dengler is more full of life and youth than any man half his age. And to hear him casually recount the details of his own imprisonment and torture, as if he were rambling on about some interesting book he read, is just a ridiculous example of a man living in the moment and in full control of his own mind. In short, it’s embarrassing to the rest of us self-absorbed soft-lifers and our own, private pity parties. Cut the s*&t, Dengler.

Little Dieter Needs to Punch Werner Herzog in the Throat: Hard. I mean, this guy is a freaking sociopath. As unimaginably well-adjusted as Dengler is, Herzog has got to be every bit as much sadistic. How else can you explain a guy who is not satisfied with just getting a former P.O.W. to share his story, not satisfied with convincing him to fly back to Laos to tell his story in the same villages where he had been held thirty years earlier, but has the unmitigated gall to ask the man to let a band of armed Lao militia tie him up again and march him through the jungles to fully recreate the ordeal? Are you kidding me? And Dengler acted as if he couldn’t be happier to help out!

Guy, Double-D, let me talk to you for a minute. You don’t have to do everything anyone asks you to just to be nice. Here’s a little rule of thumb to remember: If you are an escaped prisoner of war and an eccentric German filmmaker comes along and asks you if you could go back to your jungle prison, crawl back inside and let your former captors lock you in again so he can get a picture, you can say no. In fact, you can legally stab him in the face with a railroad spike up to twenty-five times. It’s in the Constitution.

Little Dieter Needs a Wii: Or a PSP, or just a computer, or even a Bowflex. Some kind of new hobby for him to get into around the house besides blacksmithing. Yes, you read that correctly, blacksmithing. Full-fledged, hammer and anvil, glowing hot iron rods, leather gloves and iron clamps, black-freaking-smithing. In his house. For fun. I’m not sure if I’m more impressed by how ludicrously manly this guy is, or the fact that there is still a functional smithee shop anywhere in the world today. You could rattle off a list of a hundred countries, at all different levels of development, and ask me to define their current technological state in reference to the practice of blacksmithing and I am confident that I would label every single one of them as being either in the “pre-smithing stage” or “post-smithing stage”. There cannot be any country in the world today where blacksmithing is just hitting its stride. The fact that this guy still does it just for fun makes backyard extreme wrestling look about as manly as a stuffed-animal tea party. Show-off.

Little Dieter Needs to Be Remembered: Unfortunately for the world, Dieter Dengler died in 2001. Thankfully his story lives on in not one, but two excellent movies. From a purely technical standpoint, there is nothing about Little Dieter Needs to Fly that is particularly groundbreaking or compelling. But the content and character offers the rare glimpse of a man who embodies the extraordinary combination of Western outward strength and Eastern inner peace. If you have seen Rescue Dawn, I highly encourage you to seek this out as well, in order to fully appreciate both. And if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to see both. And if you have already seen them both, I encourage you to go out for ice cream twice this weekend. ‘Cause when’s the last time you did that?

9 out of 10 Jackasses
blog comments powered by Disqus