1977, Movies

Stroszek (1977, Werner Herzog)

This is Herzog’s second film starring the amateur Bruno S., but’s been over a decade in a half since I’ve seen the first one, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. This one was written specifically for him after Herzog failed to cast him in an earlier film.

I don’t really remember Kaspar Hauser but Bruno S. feels absolutely like the character, perhaps because it’s based on him and written for him. Some amateur actors are wooden and he’s so far from it it’s hard to believe. (Apparently he had to be talked up, which seems impossible.) I have no idea if I’d feel this way if he was speaking English, but at least in German feels perfect for the role. (Frankly, most of the cast is decent even though they are mostly amateurs.)

I like how middling their lives are. I don’t know how he can afford anything but it does a pretty good job of showing why people would choose to leave. The pimps are really over-the-top but I guess that’s sort of the point. I’m not sure how they get in legally, if they even do, but it was the 1970s.

It’s weird that there’s no real mention of money before they leave Germany, beyond Eva getting enough for them to travel, but then when we to the US it is suddenly pressing. Maybe there’s something in that. The bank guy is amazing, by the way. (It is one of the auctioneers from “How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck”! I thought so!)

As with so many of his movies, Herzog manages some fantastic images, my favourite being the shot of them on the way to the aborted [redacted]. That whole sequence is the funniest part of the movie, though I don’t for a second believe they would miss Stroszek and his turkey.

Knowing how Herzog feels about chickens, I’m not sure the ending is entirely flattering to the main character. But maybe he’s trying to say something about how modern society transforms people. Or maybe he just found this crazy amusement park of the kind you can only find in America and he wanted to film it.

I feel like I agree with the crew. The ending undercuts the film. But, otherwise, it is a unique spin on the “coming to America” film mixed with a road movie. It almost feels like German proto-Jarmusch but with more plot.


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