I love Herzog. I always wonder what it would be like to be him, for just one day. What's it like to experience such a different world view, to look at everything in a different light? I love that you can just see his obsessions and inspirations in all of his films, and that all the plots of his many works are so diverse. He wanders from subject to subject, seeming to obsess over it madly for a bit, and then move to something new and exciting. I loved seeing another one of his films, and I felt sort of obsessed with the characters, location, and story.
The plot sounds so boring when you try to summarize it. IMDB has a perfect, dull description, saying, "In Berlin, an alcoholic man, recently released from prison, joins his elderly friend and a prostitute in a determined dream to leave Germany and seek a better life in Wisconsin" (IMDB). How blah. It sounds like one of those movies that's set in the midwest just to vaguely mock the characters and lifestyle. It does, a little bit, but it also reminds me of Herzog's documentaries. He's just as interested in watching the locals and letting their stories and accents and mannerisms take the stage. Sometimes this is because it's funny, but sometimes it can be sad, or strange.
It reminded me a lot of Errol Morris's films, which made a lot of sense when I read that Herzog has some strange relationship with him. The film opens by thanking him, and it is reported by both Ebert and Wikipedia (so it has to be true) that Morris and Herzog were going to Wisconsin to dig up Ed Gein's grave, and Herzog was stood up, and made a film, inspired by the location. I wrote a lot about how Morris films his subjects in my post on Gates of Heaven - is he laughing at them or with them? Does he love them or mock them? I eventually concluded it was a bit of both, and I really got that sense here with Herzog. It was just a fascinating film to watch, and it has such an odd tone - funny and tragic at the same time. And strange. So strange.
Per usual, with Herzog, the story behind the movie is almost as fascinating as the film. I love hearing stories of my favorite lunatic genius filmmaker. IMDB tells me that Herzog hired a woman to control continuity, and when she became disgusted with the film and tried to get the camera to stop rolling, he threatened to hit her with a shovel. Ebert writes that the amazing end scene with the dancing chicken was hated by Herzog's crew. He writes, "His crew members hated the dancing chicken so much they refused to participate, and he shot the footage himself. The chicken is a "great metaphor," he says--for what, he's not sure," (Great Movies II, 434-435). Each one of these stories is another reason why I love Herzog. Who else can go from trying to dig up graves with Errol Morris to making an insane and awesome film?
I want to keep writing, but I need to get some sleep. I loved this movie, am crazy for this movie. It was so bizarre and odd, but I was totally engrossed in it. It sounds like the most boring story, but Herzog's directing and the genius of using non-actors really makes this movie into something so much more. Despite what the poster above says, and some funny moments, I personally found the movie more sad. Maybe it was my mood. I also had heard that this was the last film that Ian Curtis watched, right before he committed suicide. As a big Joy Division fan, maybe that shaped how I felt about the end of the film - maybe for someone else, it could go in a different direction. In any case, I highly recommend this, especially if you already love Herzog or Errol Morris, or up for something completely different. Let me know if you check this out!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Stroszek
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