Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring: Bruno S., Eva Mattes, Clemens Scheitz, Wilhelm von Homburg, Burkhard Driest, Clayton Szalpinski
Review by Jordan Young
In Berlin, an alcoholic man, recently released from prison, joins his elderly friend and a prostitute in a determined dream to leave Germany and seek a better life in Wisconsin.
Herzog continues to blow minds of the viewer’s of 1977’s Stroszek. This film depicts three pariah’s in their native Berlin, and their overseas quest to find happiness in Plainfield, Wisconsin. The pariah’s include a prostitute (Eva), a ex-con alcoholic (the titular character Bruno Stroszek) and an old, reclusive, brittle Scheitz.
Roger Ebert wrote that this film is “one of the oddest films evermade.” This is because of it’s seemingly non sequitur segments,jarring examples of music, and it’s drastic setting changes. Not to mention that this is almost cinema en plein air, meaning this entire film is comprised of found people and places that add dramatically to the overall feel of the movie.
Bruno himself was a street musician, found by Herzog, Bruno was also a diagnosed schizophrenic… which apparently added to his troubled character due to his magnificent performance. I found myself however, sympathizing with the character of Eva much more in the beginning. She goes through some pretty miserable times, but then seems to adjust rather well to American life.
Bruno and his pack of friends quickly realize that the American dream, is just that… a dream. This reality arrives to them at the exact same time that the banker starts pestering them about their mortgage payments. This banker again was found by Herzog, but his character is just miserly enough, to make any viewer want to punch him in the face.
As Scott McCloud theorizes in Understanding Comics, no non sequitur is actually in fact a non sequitur. The fun part is about these scenes in Stroszek is, any meaning that you can create from these scenes, is the correct answer… it’s what you take from it. Therein lies, the genius of Herzog, the readers (or viewers) create their meaning. DON’T BELIEVE ANY CRITIC ABOUT THE CHICKEN SCENE! Let the chicken mean what you want it to mean. (You will know what I’m talking about.)
See this movie for Bruno’s magnificent performance, as he takes you off the beaten path of the typical character you have to love, and sets you up for his endearing depiction of a man trying to earnestly find happiness.
Very touching view of the struggles that we all go through. My belief is that Herzog tried to depict how utterly confounding life can be at any given point and time. Except where a mainstream director shows a tough life through a montage and a stereotypical song, Herzog shows a side of America we wish we could distance ourselves from. Keep in mind viewer, this is German Art House film. It will be a challenging, but extremely rewarding experience.