#1  
Old 05-02-2009, 04:41 PM
Werner Herzog's Stroszek

Stroszek (1977)

I have yet to see a film by Werner Herzog that shows why he has such a reputation for being a great filmmaker. I first saw his version of "Nosferatu," which I only remember as being good at best, "Rescue Dawn," which wasn't quite good enough to recommend, "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," which is probably one of the worst films I've ever seen, and now the disappointing "Stroszek."

The story starts in Berlin as Bruno Stroszek (Bruno S.) is getting out of jail. In a bar, he runs into his old friend Eva (Eva Mattes), whom he invites to come stay with him at his apartment. She makes her living as a prostitute and is constantly bugged by two pimps who also begin to make life rough for Bruno. Because of this, Bruno and Eva decide to move to America with their neighbor, Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz). However, things there aren't as great as they thought.

What made the film so disappointing was that it set up an interesting story in the first 40 minutes of the film where Bruno and Eva have to figure out how to deal with the pimps, but their best solution is to run away to America, thus solving the conflict far too early. The rest of the film meanders from scene to scene, not really saying anything new about wanting to live the American dream.

On top of that, it becomes really hard to have any sympathy for the characters, not only because they run away from their problems, but because they barely make any solid plans before leaving Berlin for America. Scheitz tells Bruno he can become a mechanic and Eva can become a waitress, but no one asks the question: Will it be enough to sustain them? So it becomes no surprise that their lives begin falling apart not long after they arrive.

Another reason that makes the characters hard to relate to is that they are very underdeveloped. There is a connection that begins in Berlin but is lost immediately when they get to America, particularly between Bruno and Eva. When their relationship, like their dream, falls apart, it's very hard to care because we still don't know these characters that well.

I would like to say that the section in America only ruins about half the film, but that is unfortunately not the case. It encompasses about 70 minutes of the films 108-minute runtime. The last 20 minutes or so of the film are particularly ridiculous. Having failed to sustain themselves, Bruno ends up getting his mobile home repossessed. This leads Scheitz to blame all of this on some bizarre conspiracy against them.

After the mobile home is sold, Bruno and Scheitz's best solution is to go commit armed robbery against the bank that repossessed the home, but finding it closed, they decide to rob the shop next door. This could have been a touching situation leading these desperate men to do a desperate deed....if only they hadn't been dumb enough to stick around and do some shopping at a market across the street.

Looking at the last ten minutes, without giving the very end away, we see many pointless acts being performed (in more ways than one). All of this does lead to a somewhat logical conclusion for a man in Bruno's position, but again, with no real connection to the characters, there is a feeling of detachment from all of them throughout the entire film, so by the time the conclusion comes around, we're left with a "so what?" feeling.

Several people will probably disagree with me about Herzog, but I have yet to find a reason why people like him. Perhaps he is just a director whose films I don't "get." There could be endless symbolism buried in the last few minutes of "Stroszek" that isn't incredibly obvious to me. The chicken could be Bruno dancing on the stage while thinking it's performing well, but who knows. It could have many interpretations. At this point, it seems like the chicken's head should have been cut off and the body allowed to run around aimlessly to describe this movie much more accurately. 2/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 05-02-2009 at 07:02 PM..
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  #2  
Old 05-02-2009, 08:00 PM
Herzog is a very talented filmmaker and artist. I think alot of people don't like his movies because the location specific visuals, the silences and the bold performances give his movies a pretentious, 'too arty' vibe.

I haven't seen Stroszek though so I can't really judge this review.
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