For anyone who gets tired of movies being predictable, Stroszek offers a refreshing experience. With nearly every beat feeling unanticipated you’re quickly drawn into this charismatic force of a film. Werner Herzog wrote it in four days, and I wonder if Herzog merely outlined the story and then allowed each moment to unravel. With Stroszek, Herzog proves why he’s one of the purest minds ever to direct a film.
- Director: Werner Herzog
- Writer: Werner Herzog
- Cast: Bruno Schleinstein, Eva Mattes, Clemens Scheitz
Bruno Stroszek (Bruno Scheinstein) is a mentally disturbed musician who, soon after being released from prison, runs across Eva (Eva Mattes), a prostitute abused by her pimps. Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz) is an eccentric elderly neighbor of Bruno’s and talks to him about leaving Germany for Wisconsin, where he has a nephew. All three protagonists are in need of change, and before long, all three embark on a journey to America with hopes of finding a happier existence.
Stroszek is one of the most idiosyncratic films I’ve seen. There is so much personality here and yet Werner Herzog never tries beating us over the head with its characters and predicaments. There are no pulled punches in what might have ended up as a gimmicky film in the hands of another director. Without veering into the sentimental or political, Herzog presents his subject matter poetically. There is irony throughout, as with a prostitute character who flees her downtrodden prospects in Germany only to then find herself with similar choices in America.
Here is a foreign film that is part comedy, part tragedy and part anthropology. In many ways, it’s a nuanced slice of Americana. With the use of non-professional actors for each of the main roles, Herzog invites us to take part of a cultural journey that feels natural, even if the situations themselves sometimes feel improbably comedic. By blending raw acting with light-hearted music and subtle camera movements, Herzog captures more than a few tender moments. Whether we’re seeing the odd yet charming trio of main characters riding in a car upon first arriving in America, or walking over a frozen lake with a metal detector, or blending into a rural community in Wisconsin, Stroszek soars by providing us a glimpse of a very particular society viewed through the lens of outsiders.
Brief Words for Mr. Ebert:
Ebert called Stroszek one of the oddest films ever made, and this is a compliment coming from a man who reviewed films for more than four decades. This film isn’t just different for the sake of being different, it has a mind of its own. In praising Herzog’s bold imagination, Ebert asks, “Who else would shoot the film in the hometown of Ed Gein, the murderer who inspired Psycho? Of course, the answer is Herzog. To create such a unique premise is one thing, but to then follow such a premise with such curiosity is rare. Ebert confirms that Herzog “cuts loose from narrative and follows his characters through the relentless logic of their adventure”. Ebert’s review definitely praises this aspect of Herzog’s filmmaking appeal, and I encourage anyone to not only watch this film but to also appreciate its artistic merit.
Good, Bad or Great Movie: GREAT
Do you like Stroszek? Do you consider this film to be Good, Bad, or does it stand up as Great?
Next week’s review: Pickpocket
Years ago, ScreenCrave contributor Jaime Lopez privately began tackling Roger Ebert’s “Greatest Films” list, a monolith of celluloid currently comprised of approximately 363 films (more if you count the trilogies, the Up docs and Decalogue). Lopez has set himself to put these remaining films’ “Greatness” to the test–reviewing both the movies themselves and Ebert’s response. By taking on Werner Herzog’s Stroszek this week, he now has 346 under his belt and less than 20 films left to go.