IMDb > Signs of Life (1968)
Lebenszeichen
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Signs of Life (1968) More at IMDbPro »Lebenszeichen (original title)


Overview

User Rating:
7.4/10   1,078 votes »
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Down 6% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Director:
Writers:
Werner Herzog (writer)
Achim von Arnim (story)
Contact:
View company contact information for Signs of Life on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
December 1981 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
On Crete, a wounded German paratrooper named Stroszek is sent to the quiet city of Kos with his wife Nora... See more » | Add synopsis »
Awards:
2 wins & 2 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
gritty, meandering, a beautiful and harrowing start to a career See more (10 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order)
Peter Brogle ... Stroszek
Wolfgang Reichmann ... Meinhard
Athina Zacharopoulou ... Nora
Wolfgang von Ungern-Sternberg ... Becker
Wolfgang Stumpf ... Captain
Henry van Lyck ... Lieutenant
Julio Pinheiro ... Gypsy
Florian Fricke ... Pianist
Heinz Usener ... Doctor
Achmed Hafiz ... Greek resident
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jannakis Frasakis
Eleni Katerinaki

Werner Herzog ... Soldat (uncredited)
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Directed by
Werner Herzog 
 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Werner Herzog  writer
Achim von Arnim  story

Produced by
Werner Herzog .... producer
 
Original Music by
Stavros Xarhakos 
 
Cinematography by
Thomas Mauch 
 
Film Editing by
Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus 
 
Production Management
Nicholas Triandafyllidis .... production manager
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Martje Grohmann .... assistant director
 
Sound Department
Herbert Prasch .... sound
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Dietrich Lohmann .... assistant camera
Bettina von Waldthausen .... still photographer
 
Editorial Department
Maximiliane Mainka .... assistant editor
 
Other crew
Ina Fritsche .... continuity
 

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Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Lebenszeichen" - West Germany (original title)
See more »
Runtime:
USA:91 min
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Trivia:
Director Cameo: [Werner Herzog]one the soldiers at the beginning of the film that transports Stoszek to the hospital.See more »
Quotes:
Young Child:Now that I can talk, what shall I say?See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in Werner Herzog Filmemacher (1986)See more »

FAQ

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful.
gritty, meandering, a beautiful and harrowing start to a career, 14 December 2007
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States

Werner Herzog's first film is a view into the mindset of the soldier who goes over the brink, but unlike many films that might explore the concept, or even Herzog's own later, arguably greater, Woyzeck, Signs of Life is about a man engulfed by the location. The setting is interesting right away; a stone fortress that men who have been wounded or just put on leave are guarding on a remote Greek island during WW2 (of course, we're never told this, which is appropriate, one can take a guess as to the significance of Herzog's POV as part of the New German cinema), and aside from the cockroaches and painting doors, there's not much to do. The mundane becomes engulfing, even as there's little things to do on the island. It's always bubbling under the surface, and as the days pass and things start to grow more aimless, Stroszek (Peter Brogle, with the kind of eyes and demeanor Kubrick would've loved to film) distances himself, sets of fireworks in his hands, and snaps one day out on patrol.

If anyone knows Herzog, the tale of a man going "berserk", as one officer says in this film of the main character, this shouldn't be seen out of the ordinary. Herzog has always tried to explore not so much of the precise 'whys' of the snap, or the break under pressure, or society's role or those around in personal quarters. Of course it's suggested a lot of the time, but in the case of Signs of Life we see much of the insanity in very long shots, with Stroszek going mad in the last twenty minutes on top of the fortress, wavering around, surrounded still by the immense landscape - an "inner" landscape, mayhap, as Herzog describes so often of his perspective on landscapes - of the fortress set against the background of the sea and mountains. But if one were seeing this as the first feature of some 26 year old Bavarian who only made a few shorts (one of which was similar somewhat to Signs of Life), this would seem like the most unclassifiable "genre" film ever made.

It's a movie about soldiers who don't fight, and with images like cut aways to peasants running and rummaging in the streets, a bird, a bunch of statues, stone tablets. And then when Stroszek does snap, we don't hear any audio, just the intense plucking of the guitar by the Greek composer, as Herzog pans over a whole field of windmills. And where else would one ever see something like when the bald soldier is setting up the trap for the roaches? Or the segway with the guy who thinks that he's a King? The first half of the movie is unsettling because it doesn't seem like it's going anywhere, and yet I kept on wanting to stay with Herzog (not even because I knew where it was going); there's something underneath all of the ho-hum "non" drama that goes on, little bits of behavior in the lackadaisical, that when finally things pick up dramatically it starts slowly, then builds, goes to a peak, and then...

Well, you'll just have to see for yourself. All I know is that you're likely not to see another film like Signs of Life- much less a debut from a major European film artist- where the climax entails fireworks going off while practical martial law is placed over the island. Herzog doesn't follow any rules, and it can get frustrating here and there. But it's also exhilarating, and I would probably count it in my top 10 favorites of the director.

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