This is the story of Fitzcarraldo (Klaus Kinski), a wild-eyed Irish dreamer who is obsessed with the idea of building an opera house in the upper Amazon and bringing his idol Caruso to perform at its opening.

First he must raise the money — no easy task. Fitzcarraldo has already been dubbed "conquistador of the useless" by the successful businessmen in town after his schemes to build a trans-Andean railroad and to merchandise ice in the area come to nothing.

But the poverty stricken kids in the area believe in the Irishman's magic and so does Molly (Claudia Cardinale), owner of the town's prosperous brothel. She gives Fitzcarraldo the money to purchase a boat and the land rights to an unclaimed area in the region of the Ucayali River where 14 million rubber trees are located. To reach the territory, all he has to do is pull his steamboat over at a mountain to the other side.

Werner Herzog's engaging film transports us to a far-away and exotic jungle world which becomes for us and the protagonist a twilight realm between dream and reality. Although all of Fitzcarraldo's crew abandon ship when the enter territory inhabited by Jivaro headhunters, the crazy entrepreneur manages to win over the Indians and even convince them to provide manpower for the monumental portaging effort. In the end, fate plays a trick on Fitzcarraldo — setting him on a different course than the one he had planned. He proves willing to go with the flow.

The eye-inveigling scenery, Kinski's convincing performance, and the story's finale make Fitzcarraldo a mesmerizing work of art.