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Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Dieter Dengler grew up in a small village in the Black Forest, joined the U.S. Navy, became a pilot, and in 1966 was shot down over Laos and became a prisoner of war. He tells and reenacts parts of his astonishing story in this deceptively conventional documentary narrated, produced, and directed by Werner Herzog. Between frequently literal illustrations of Dengler’s words, Herzog shows him telling war stories that sometimes sound like they’ve been repeated too many times; some seem like exaggerations or fabrications because they’re so incredible and because Dengler never misses a beat. Yet there’s never any doubt that he’s been to hell and back. In one of the movie’s strangely low-key dramatizations–which were staged on location–the subtlety of Herzog’s craft and the depth of Dengler’s empathy combine in a moment of keen emotion: a man stands silently beside Dengler representing the subject of a harrowing story Dengler tells about someone who ended up losing his finger after he took Dengler’s engagement ring. When he finishes the narrative, Dengler spontaneously puts his arm around the man’s shoulders and reassures him that this is only a movie. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, October 2, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday and Sunday, October 3 and 4, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00; and Monday through Thursday, October 5 through 8, 7:00 and 9:00; 773-281-4114. –Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.