During the 1800s, paroled Brazilian bandit Cobra Verde is sent to West Africa with a few troops to man an old Portuguese fort and to convince the local African ruler to resume the slave trade with Brazil.
Through examining Fini Straubinger, an old woman who has been deaf and blind since adolescence, and her work on behalf of other deaf and blind people, this film shows how the deaf and blind... See full summary »
Bruno Stroszek is released from prison and warned to stop drinking. He has few skills and fewer expectations: with a glockenspiel and an accordion, he ekes out a living as a street musician. He befriends Eva, a prostitute down on her luck. After they are harried and beaten by the thugs who have been Eva's pimps, they join Bruno's neighbor, Scheitz, an elderly eccentric, when he leaves Germany to live in Wisconsin. In that winter bound, barren prairie, Bruno works as a mechanic, Eva as a waitress. They buy a trailer. Then, bills mount, the bank threatens to repossess the trailer, Eva wants privacy, and inexorably, the promise of a new life deserts Bruno.Written by
I recently watched Michael Winterbottom's 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, where Ian Curtis hangs himself while watching the chicken dancing sequence in STROSZEK. He'd probably done that anyway, but Herzog's portrait of three eccentric oddballs trying their luck in America, is a sombre film, the most downbeat Herzog made. The only copy I own is a rather dark VHS-copy, which shows some of the interior shots in Berlin even darker than they already are, to the very limit of watchability, so perhaps it's time I update this beautiful film with a proper DVD.
The film handles the story of former asylum inmate Bruno S. (THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER) as a Berlin street singer (in a role where he basically plays himself), who joins with his prostitute girlfriend Eva (Eva Mattes) and ageing eccentric friend Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz) to embark on a memorable journey, leaving modern Berlin, for the golden opportunities of America. The 'promised land' is represented by the dreary, austere town of Railroad Flats in rural Wisconsin, where they settle in a mobile home bought on credit, but it turns out America is not gonna fulfill their dreams that easily.
Shot in winter, Berlin is shown as a cold, forbidden and lacklustre place. Not a ray of sunshine. The dark facades of the battered apartment blocks, downlit bars filled with smoke and shabby characters, the only goal the folks in Bruno's world seem to have, is merely make the best of things.
Often read as a critique of how capitalist American society destroys the individual, Herzog sees the film as less a critique of the United States than as "a eulogy" in the wake of the American dream, for such shattered hopes could develop in virtually any country (see "Herzog on Herzog", p. 144). He does throw in some of the eccentricities of American life, but above all, it's a somewhat surreal account of three simple folks, short-changed in life, desperately trying to make ends meet. From the start it's clear that these three are made for each other. They simply do not fit in any stratum of society really. They're too fragile for the world of pimps and low lives that formed the background of their lives in Berlin. Although not dumb, Bruno is too half-witted to be taken seriously by most people. Eva's background is not fully explained, but she's emotionally fragile and dependent, while elderly Scheitz's chances to get ahead in life seems to lay in the past.
It's a bleak and uncompromising film, this tragicomic account of this odd trio in pursuit of a better life outside the dreary confinements of Berlin's lower casts of society, but it's so intensely moving and honest with its subjects, that alone is something to admire.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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