18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning culture clash...
Bruno S. regroups with Herzog after their previous collaboration, 'The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser'. Though this film is probably closer to 'Even Dwarfs Started Small'...It begins with the eponymous protoganist leaving an asylum and going to live in the 'real world' of Berlin...This section is depressing, due to the bullying of two pimp characters who torture him in an...
Published on 12 Jan. 2002 by Jason Parkes
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars more weird than profound
i was looking forward to watching this film, anticipating a good laugh or something to think about. i didn't get much of either. the actors were obviously keen amateurs, the one who plays stroszek is engaging. apart from a dancing chicken, there is not that much to write home about.
Published on 15 Nov. 2011 by John Whewell
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning culture clash...,
This review is from: Stroszek [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Bruno S. regroups with Herzog after their previous collaboration, 'The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser'. Though this film is probably closer to 'Even Dwarfs Started Small'...It begins with the eponymous protoganist leaving an asylum and going to live in the 'real world' of Berlin...This section is depressing, due to the bullying of two pimp characters who torture him in an obscure manner using a piano (?). His best friends are an old man and a prostitute. The German section is fairly grim- until they decide to leave for the utopia of America...We get them doing the tourist thing, before heading to Wisconcin (or some other US-backwater)- where Stroszek enjoys beer, temporary work in a garage and selling his soul to his bank manager for a mobile home...While the old man confounds the locals with the best dual language jokes this side of 'Ghost Dog' (the film is not unsimilar to 'Stranger than Paradise'). The tragedy, albeit absurd has to occur- it involves polite bank managers, lorry drivers and auctioneers. The only options left are crime- our European outsiders are now the ultimate outsiders...The final scene is heartbreaking & hilarious: the dancing chickens offering an influence on 'Blue Velvet'- and the film demonstrating their was something in the air ('Eraserhead' was released the same year). There are cars on fire. And a ski-lift...
This is the film Ian Curtis (Joy Division) watched, prior to listening to Iggy Pop's 'The Idiot' and killing himself. This is also the film that David Lynch watched in his hotel room (it was the same television transmission) and was amazed by...Probably my fave Herzog, it deserves to be seen by everyone, though 'Aguire...' and 'The Enigma...' are probably better films. What can I say?- a stunning culture clash. The outsiders outsiders.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bleakly uniquely uplifting downbeat Herzog wonder,
With all the inherent contradictions that implies! The key image of a broken down car going round in endless circles from Herzog's earlier Even Dwarfs Started Small turns up again in Stroszek, but this film is much more impressive than that exercise in chaos and subversion. It's another tale of people who don't fit anywhere, in this case the almost alien Bruno S. and his dysfunctional adopted family of hooker Eva Mattes and eccentric Clemens Scheitz, who emigrate from Germany to find the American dream only to discover easy credit, unpaid bills, bailiffs, rifles and dancing chickens instead.
Yet for all the misfortune and grim subject matter, it's surprisingly not as bitter and dour as you might expect, with plenty of Herzogian moments that are so unlikely they seem strangely convincing - even when his two leading men rob a barber shop and immediately run to the convenience store across the road to spend their ill-gotten gains. It also has one of those unexpectedly prescient moments where Bruno S and Eva Mattes are talking about America's national parks where Grizzly bears run free...
The film is light on extras but does feature one of Herzog's excellent audio commentaries.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than the dancing chicken...,
Stroszek is a simple story about a simple man, who leaves for America with an abused prostitute and an elderly neighbour, in the hope of starting a new life away from the violent and antagonistic Berlin underbelly, that they'd previously been caught up in. To any other filmmaker, the plot would serve as the backdrop to the spiralling melodrama that envelops the character's lives and the harsh realities of their situation. However, in Herzog's hands, the film becomes a surreal, stylised, darkly-comic piece of bleak absurdity, as his characters set off on a stark and seemingly directionless odyssey across the American mid-west, in the earnest belief that the land of opportunity will reward their hard-work, passion and tenacity, with wealth, happiness and good fortune.
Because of these elements, the film has been interpreted by many critics as a scathing review of the American dream and the treatment of naive foreigners who dare to step foot on U.S. soil. However, as far as I'm concerned, the film has much more depth to it than that limiting interpretation would suggest, with Herzog really showing us the destruction of the human spirit and the on going role of the perpetual outsider in society. Obviously, from this, the film has certain parallels with his great masterpiece, The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, right down to the casting of Bruno S. as the titular Bruno Stroszek. The casting of Bruno gives the film a certain solemnity, with many elements of the plot (abuse, alienation, mental disability and institutionalisation) drawing parallels with Bruno's own tragic real life and his unbelievable back story. Herzog heightens the drama further, by setting the opening of the film in the same neighbourhood (and, in fact, the very same apartment) where Bruno lived during the time of the production, and even incorporates many of Bruno's eccentric characteristics and possessions into the direction of the character.
The performance of Bruno throughout is quite remarkable (even though he is, for all intensive purposes, playing himself), as he brings to this film the same haunted naivety that worked so well for The Enigma of Kasper Hauser. As with that film, Herzog is here able to anchor the images of the film to that same sense of sadness and awe that is so central to Bruno's inner character, as he watches each scene unfold with wide, childlike eyes, completely curious and overwhelmed by what is happening, though, simultaneously, wracked with pain. This is most apparent in the scene with Bruno and his doctor; in which the doctor takes us on a tour of the premature babies ward, where a collection of pink, wrinkled, almost-embryonic little babies lay in incubation. As the doctor raises the babies up from their frail littler arms to illustrate to Bruno the strength of reflex that these little creatures possess in spite of such short-comings, Herzog creates the ultimate metaphor for both Bruno and the film.
As with Kasper Hauser, Stroszeck is a fated character from the outset, with Herzog clearly marking him out as a true human, too pure for the world around him. There's a great scene midway through the film, one that is akin to the scene in Kasper, in which the character talks in voice-over about sowing his name with seeds into the ground, only for it to be destroyed by heartless antagonists... here, Bruno sits with Eva, the prostitute who he loves, and shows her a small and completely absurd model of what his insides look like without love. It's a long scene, shot with only a couple of takes, and is a real tour-de-force performance from Bruno, in which he tries his hardest to confess his love to the oblivious Eva with a combination of trite, childlike metaphors, and heartbreaking recollections of a hard and loveless life. The film, though darkly comic, is quite oppressive throughout... there are a couple of very difficult-to-watch scenes in which both Bruno and Eva are beaten and tormented by the pimps in Berlin, whilst the scenes between Bruno, Eva, and the slimy bank-executive, seem like a definite precursor to some unavoidable tragedy.
The film has very little colour to it, seeming almost black-and-white in a lot of scenes, with the colours seemingly muted by Herzog and his cinematographer Tomas Maunch (Berlin has never looked so cold and uninviting... whilst the mid-West looks eerie, lifeless and barren), whilst the use of non-professional actors in the secondary roles (particularly those set in the U.S.) helps to give the film a strange and disconcerting air of the documentary, to help juxtapose some of the more absurd situations at the heart of Herzog's script. Despite the usual Herzog characteristics, Stroszeck is also coloured by the influence of other filmmakers, particularly in this case, Herzog's friend and contemporary Rainer Werner Fassbinder (most apparent in the early scenes in Berlin, with the violent pimps, allusions to American melodrama, and rigid, visual composition) and the U.S. documentarian Errol Morris, who's early films depicting the American mid-west were a key-influence on Herzog's representation of the region here.
Stroszek is, without question, a Herzog masterpiece, easily as vital and enjoyable as the more well-known films he made with Klaus Kinski. The performances are astounding throughout, whether from the professionals or the non-professionals (the beautiful Eva Mattes, a regular character in Fassbinder's films, is as remarkable here as she was in Herzog's later underrated film Woyzeck), whilst the style and tone of the film is spot on... managing to offer up many of those sublime moments synonymous with Herzog's work, but with a story and a character that are both entertaining and affecting. The ending is suitably vague, but ties the story together nicely whilst continuing the central character's plunge into the bleak abyss. That iconic image of the dancing chicken speaks volumes about the futility and prolonged madness of life (or something like that) and simply adds to the overall bizarre (almost comedic, almost nightmarish) charm that Herzog so effectively creates.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A study in violence,
From beginning to end, this film seemed to me to be about violence: that on the sensitive character of Stroszek, that of the thugs on Bruno, that rather more muted violence which passes between the girl and Bruno, and so on and so forth. It is a deeply affecting film, which shows how people's plans to attempt to find better outcomes for their existence go completely awry.
Definitely a film to watch. But very sad.
5.0 out of 5 stars Herzog at his best,
This review is from: Stroszek [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
A haunting journey. Bruno S' portrayal is extraordinary - art mirroring life & must at times have been a painful experience (The unwanted son of a prostitute, Bruno S. was beaten so severely by his mother at age 3 that he became temporarily deaf. This led to his placement in a mental institution; he spent the next 23 years in various institutions, often running afoul of the law. Despite this past, he a self-taught painter and musician; while these were his favorite occupations, he was also forced to take jobs in factories such as driving a fork lift). Director Werner Herzog saw him in the documentary Bruno der Schwarze - Es blies ein Jäger wohl in sein Horn (1970) and vowed to work with him, which led to his major roles in _Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle - Kaspar Hauser (1974)_ and Stroszek (1977). He was very difficult to work with, though, sometimes needing several hours of screaming before he could do a scene).
The denouement is stunning & haunting, the dancing chicken & harmonica player living on long after the DVD is ejected.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece from a true original.,
When Werner Herzog made 'the Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser' in 1974, a film about an incarcerated social outsider who is suddenly thrust into the real world, he cast an unknown Bruno S', himself a real life social outsider, in the main role. The casting was inspired, and Herzog later wrote 'Stroszek' with Bruno in mind. Today, the movie comes across as the most unpitying portrayal of the American dream as has been seen in cinema.
Just released from prison, Bruno finding German life unbearable, is told that to get money he must move to America. With his prostitute girlfriend (the wonderful Eva Mattes) and a borderline crazy neighbour (Clemens Sheitz), he crosses the Atlantic in pursuit of the American dream. But instead of a life of riches and ease, he ends up in Railroad Flats Wisconsin where poverty forces him to attempt the shoddiest bank robbery ever seen.
Even with Herzog's wicked sense of humour, this is difficult viewing. The concept of a stranger in a strange land has rarely, if ever, been put to better use. But what lifts this picture to truly indespensible status, is Bruno's incredible performance. With his vocal tics and thousand yard stare, he commands the screen and comes across as one of the strangest intelligences i've yet to see.
But equal credit must go to Herzog himself when you realise what a shoe-string affair the whole production was. Sprawled on a moving car bonnet to get shots, filming set-ups whenever he could (he often filmed without permission from the authorities and high tailed it when he got found out) and getting arrested several times in a single day (apparently the same officer arrested him twice!), the great German director must be championed for getting this film finished at all.
Today, Stroszek is less celebrated than Herzog's great visionary achievements with the amazing Klaus Kinski. But thanks to Bruno's performance, this should receive equal merit. And if that isn't enough to persuade you to watch, then check out the ending. Featuring a pick-up truck, a ski-lift and a roadside attraction of performing animals, this is one of the most savage and brilliant endings on film. Mankind as chickens dancing to an unseen tune. Lyrical, poetic, unmissable.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic from 1977....,
'Stroszek' came from a period in Werner Herzog's oeuvre where he was distanced from frequent collaborator Klaus Kinski ('Aguire, the Wrath of God','Nosferatu','Fitzcarraldo'). During this period he made films with Bruno S. , notably 'The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser'(1974) & this film from 1977...
The association between Bruno S.'s own-life and his character is made when the central character is released from an institution (swapping an asylum for a prison) to an unforgiving Berlin. Stroszek ends up linking with a prostitute and an old man and following a bizarre scene of piano-related torture (????), ends up emigrating with his friends to the USA...
'Stroszek' then takes on the feel common to U.S. indie-cinema- the subtitle-jokes here prefigure Jim Jarmusch's subtitle-play in 'Ghost Dog- the Way of the Samurai' (2000) and also reminding me of Jarmusch's earlier 'Stranger Than Paradise' (1984) and 'Down By Law' (1985). 'Stroszek' also has that odd feel common to some works of the New German Cinema of the time- notably 'Alice in the Cities' & 'Kings of the Road' by Wim Wenders and 'Fear Eats the Soul' by Rainer Werner Fassbinder- outsiders being a common notion to these films...
After a New York tourist part, the film settles into the Mid West of the States, and how the "American dream" is false and Stroszek eventually descends into crime and suicide. Suicide is important to mention, as 'Stroszek' is associated with the suicide of Joy Division-singer Ian Curtis, who watched the film on TV in 1980 and killed himself hours later (scenes from 'Stroszek' can be seen in the film '24 Hour Party People' & the posthumous 'Still' release by Joy Division quoted the chicken-line from this film's denoument). Saying that, readers of 'Lynch on Lynch' (Faber) will note that David Lynch (then shooting 'The Elephant Man' in the UK)watched the same television broadcast of 'Stroszek' and was filled with life. This is the sentiment I was filled with when watching this brilliant film - though Herzog's work often falls into love or hate rather than anywhere between...
'Stroszek' stands up as one of Herzog's great films, though there have been many, take your pick - 'Aguire, the Wrath of God', 'The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser','Fitzcarraldo','Little Dieter Needs to Fly','Wings of Hope','Land of Silence & Darkness', 'Heart of Glass' etc. A great film, and one that stands as a great work of world cinema...
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly dissection of the American dream,
This is famous as the apocryphal film that Ian Curtis watched before he committed suicide, which gives you no small clue as to the tone within - a feel-good date movie it ain't. It's always fascinating to see films examinining a culture made by directors alien to that culture (Joseph Losey's "The Go-Between" and Louis Malle's "Atlantic City" are a couple of examples that come to mind). The famous ending is relentlessly downbeat - put a coin in the slot and we all dance for the amusement of others.
5.0 out of 5 stars Bruno!,
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Stumbled across this as part of an early Herzog collection I'd got out of the local library. Moving and hilarious in equal measure; helped by the increbible performance of the 'troubled' Bruno S as the titular Anit-Hero, 'Stroszek' is the most humane of Herzog's films and a massive influence on such Indie/Alt auters as Jim Jarmuch & Aki Karismaki
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Political cinema at its best,
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This review is from: Stroszek [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Bruno S, Herzog's strange doppelganger, gets his own homage here in a film which draws heavily on his talents, his mental struggles and even uses his flat as the main character's flat in Berlin. The name is almost the same too. Released from prison and threatened with an asylum if he starts drinking and commits any more crime, Bruno struggles in Berlin against the crushing reality of Berlin, its crime and its harshness. He is threatened with torture by a couple of seriously nasty pimps, and so his friend Eva (Eva Mattes) turns a few dozen tricks with Turkish gastarbeiters and raises enough money to take off with the old man, Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz - are you getting the idea?), to go to America, land of dreams. For a brief moment the country is strange and beautiful and full of hope, until they settle in the back of beyond, buy on credit, and get trapped in the cycle of debt which we're too familiar with at this moment. Eva gets bored and heads off with a couple of truckers. Bruno is heartbroken. And here for the last 20 minutes the film moves into a truly epic and archetypal dimension which makes it one of the greats. The sharks move in and repossess everything. They do it with smiling faces, but they are no less ruthless than the Berlin pimps. Bruno and the old man try to rob a store with touching naivety, but the old man is arrested, and Bruno flees, clutching the frozen turkey from the supermarket which he was intending to pay for with his stolen money. The final sequence is circular. Bruno sets their truck moving around in circles; he takes a chair lift which goes up and down a hill in circles, and after a couple of turns we hear him shoot himself offscreen at the top. The film closes on an animal freakshow in which a chicken endlessly sets off a jukebox by pecking corn and dancing jerkily to music, which it will do until it too drops.
We are all trapped in the cycle of reward and punishment. American capitalism is just as much a prison as the opening prison. There is no escape. Bleak, devastating, and an object lesson in film-making.
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