“Stroszek” is a 1977 German tragicomic drama film about a street performer who emigrated from Berlin to Wisconsin, the United States, with an elderly man and a prostitute. Written, directed and produced by Werner Herzog. It stars Bruno S., Eva Mattes, and Clemens Scheitz. 116 minutes.
Berlin street performer Bruno Stroszek (Bruno S.) is released from prison. The prison warden advises him to stop drinking because he committed crimes due to his alcoholism, but he goes to a bar and drink beer just after leaving the prison.
At the bar, Bruno finds Eva (Eva Mattes), a prostitute, being in trouble with two men. The men are Eva’s former pimps, and she is mistreated by them because she owes a debt to them and she cannot pay off it. Bruno lets her live with him at his apartment because she has nowhere to go.
Bruno’s apartment had been looked after by Mr. Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz), who is his neighbor and an elderly, tiny man, during his absence.
The two pimps find where Eva is. They break into Bruno’s apartment and assault Eva and Bruno.
Bruno talks to a doctor he met in the prison about his problems. The doctor advises him to get a regular job, and shows him a premature baby in the maternity ward in order to encourage him.
Mr. Scheitz is planning to move to Wisconsin to live with his nephew Clayton. Bruno and Eva decide to leave Germany and go to live in Wisconsin with Scheitz.
Eva raises money for travel through prostitution to Turkish workers at a construction site.
After sightseeing in New York City, they buy a used car and drive to Railroad Flats (a fictional town), Wisconsin, where Mr. Scheitz’s nephew Clayton lives.
Bruno starts working as a mechanic at an auto-repair garage with Clayton and his Native American assistant. Eva starts working as a waitress at a truck stop restaurant.
Bruno and Eva make a loan with a bank to buy a prefabricated mobile home, and they start living together at the home on the prairie.
A farmer and his enormous tractor have gone missing in Railroad Flats. Clayton believes that the farmer has been sunk to the bottom of one of the local lakes. He searches the frozen lakes for the farmer with a metal detector every weekend.
Mr. Scheitz believes that he succeeded in measuring “animal magnetism” advocated by Franz Mesmer, and he measures biomagnetism every here and there.
Eva starts prostituting herself again because Bruno and Eva have trouble paying their mortgage.
Bruno becomes frustrated with Eva because she stopped sleeping in the same room with him.
Bruno is disappointed with his life in America because he faces a harsh reality, though he expected to become rich there.
Eva leaves Bruno and runs off with two truck drivers bound for Vancouver. Bruno spends his days drunk.
Bruno’s mobile home is foreclosed and is auctioned by the bank because Bruno cannot pay his mortgage.
Mr. Scheitz believes that Americans are conspiring against them. To prevent the conspiracy, Bruno and Mr. Scheitz take a hunting rifle and try to raid the bank, but the bank is closed. They rob the barber shop next door of $32, and buy groceries in a supermarket right across the street from the bank. Mr. Scheitz is arrested by the cops. Bruno escapes with a frozen turkey.
Bruno returns to the garage where he works, and he escapes in a tow truck.
When Bruno enters the town of Cherokee, North Carolina, the truck breaks down. He pulls over to a sandwich shop, where he tells his story to a German-speaking businessman.
Bruno starts the truck, and leaves it circling in the parking lot with a fire taking hold in the engine compartment.
Bruno goes to a ski lift across the street, going through an amusement arcade. He starts the lift and rides on it with his frozen turkey and gun. The sound of a gunshot rings out on the ski lift in the mountains.
A chicken is dancing, a duck is playing a drum, and a rabbit is riding a toy fire truck in coin-operated attractions that Bruno activated on his way to the ski lift.
A policeman sends a message over the radio, “a truck on fire, we have a man on the lift. We are unable to find the switch to turn the lift off and we can’t stop the dancing chicken. Send an electrician.”
“Stroszek” is a strange art film featuring Bruno S., who played the role of Kaspar Hauser in “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser” (1974) directed by Herzog.
The character setting of Bruno Stroszek in the film reflects the background of Bruno S. himself.
“Stroszek” is especially eccentric among the films called the “New German Cinema” mainly in the late 1960s and 1970s. In 2002, film critic Roger Ebert described it as “one of the oddest films ever made.”
In the film, there are many scenes that emphasize the impossibility of communication and mutual understanding. Bruno, Eva and Mr. Scheitz have nothing in common, and they are not on the same wavelength. Bruno cannot communicate with Americans without Eva, who speaks English, because he speaks only German.
“Stroszek” is characterized by its tragicomical ambiguity. Though it is a film about the tragedy of a social misfit, it is also a comedy filled with nonsensical humor. The meaninglessness of life presented by this film is sad and humorous at the same time.
The film won the Special Jury Prize in the 1977 Taormina International Film Festival, and the Best Film in the 1978 German Film Critics Association Awards.