Stroszek (1977)


Dir. Werner Herzog
Premiered January 12, 1977

“So your car is kaput. And your girlfriend is gone. And thine house hey have sold.”

Stroszek, I can definitively say, is the first film that I have had to review which I truly don’t get. I watched it with a friend who was a great fan and felt nothing but pure bewilderment. Nowhere in it do I find the Werner Herzog I know. No humanity, no triumph, no ambition. Only…this.

After being released from prison, Alcoholic Bruno Stroszek (Bruno Schleinstein) returns to the West Berlin apartment kept by his landlord Mr. Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz) and fails to make a living as a street performer in the economically depressed town. He allows his friend and ambiguous love interest, a prostitute named Eva (Eva Mattes) to stay with him, but this only puts both of them in the crosshairs of Eva’s pimps. Despondent, the two join Mr. Scheitz as he retires with his American nephew (Clayton Szlapinski) in Wisconsin.

There, Bruno works in the nephew’s garage, Eva works as a waitress but returns to prostitution to make ends meet, and Mr. Scheitz pursues an interest in animal magnetism but becomes convinced that there’s a conspiracy against him. Unable to pay their bills, their trailer is repossessed. Finally, Bruno steals a tow truck, sets it on fire, and a chicken dances. The end.

You see what I have to deal with? I understand what Herzog was going for, that Bruno’s hopes and dreams were ultimately unfounded, but I don’t see why that should play out as it does. I really don’t get the chicken thing. But Harmony Korine likes it, so yay? I didn’t hate it, but it’s my least favorite Werner Herzog film of the eight I’ve seen.

Signs This Was Made in 1977
Berlin is a cultural and economic wasteland. Bruno, in his mid-forties, recalls growing up under Hitler.

How Did It Do?
Like many if not most films for this project, I was unable to find any information about Stroszek’s finances, but I suspect it had a very small budget and was able to make it back. It is the first film in this series to receive a whopping 100% rating on RottenTomatoes, but not the last. Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis hung himself while watching it. I still don’t get it.

Next Time: Pumping Iron


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