Little Dieter Needs to Fly (link to DVD on Amazon)
This is a documentary about Dieter Dengler, who was born in Germany shortly after WWII started who grew up to be a bomber pilot in Vietnam. As a young boy, he watched the Allied airplanes bombing his village and flying in low to the ground to strafe the houses. Watching the planes inspired in him a strong and life-long desire to become a pilot. At 18 he managed to emigrate to the
When the film was made, Dieter Dengler was in his early 60s. He narrates the film and is an engaging and charismatic story-teller of his incredible life. He tells the story of his imprisonment without emotion or self-pity. He recounts how they would torture him with a tone of voice that suggests admiration for the inventiveness of his tormentors. He voice carries no ill-will towards them. Part of the film is reenactment. With a group of young, heavily-armed, Laotians, he reenacts how the drove him through the jungle. He lets himself be hand-cuffed or tied to the ground to show how they restrained him. At the camp, he shows how they would shackle their legs to the ground, and describes the torture. All in the same voice of ‘wow, isn’t this an incredible story’. His descriptions of his mental state after his rescue tell better the true horror of the experience. For many years, he would be unable to sleep and could only sleep in the cockpit of his airplane. When he built his house in
My overall impression of the film was that this was an interesting and entertaining documentary of a remarkable but in some ways contradictory life. It was amazing to me that someone could come through this kind of experience mentally unscathed. That is if you don’t count his various obsessions, like open and closing doors multiple times and that he was reminded of the experience every day even 40 years after the experience. It was also strange that he grew up seeing the destruction and horror brought by Allied bombs, and yet he grew up to be a bomber himself. He says early on that when he was bombing, he saw the landscape as a map and did not connect the explosions on the ground to real suffering. The images from the sky he could not quite imagine from the ground. It was only after he was a prisoner and was on the ground that he appreciated the horror that the bombs brought. This seemed an odd thing to say given his childhood.