Thursday, March 27, 2008

Small Angry Germans with Guns: Watching Stroszek

- Stroszek is supposedly the film Joy Division front man Ian Curtis watched hours before his suicide. I find that fact odd, since the film isn't so much depressing or gloomy (though it has elements of both those moods) as it is bizarre. I suppose the film has a fundamental strangeness to it that could spook somebody in an agitated and despairing state. Suffice to say, do not watch this movie high.

-Bruno Stroszek is played by Bruno S., a street musician who was born to a prostitute and spent most of his life in an asylum. Director Werner Herzog used him in his earlier film The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, and according to the book Herzog on Herzog, he wrote Stroszek specifically for Bruno when Bruno found he'd lost his part in Herzog's version of Woyzeck to Klaus Kinski. Herzog also mentions in the book how odd and wonderful Bruno's way of speaking is, and though I don't understand his German, there is something perfectly expressive about his voice; he almost sounds like a character on a kids show.

-One of the two pimps who harass Bruno and his prostitute friend Eva looks like he's in a Hawkwind cover band. Or more likely a roadie for a Hawkwind cover band. The dude is tall and blond with a handlebar mustache and a wardrobe of silk shirts and gold jewelry. I think getting roughed up by a guy who looks that tacky has to hurt your dignity, because you keep thinking "If He-Man was a pimp, this is what he'd look like!"

Hawkwind Does Not, I Repeat, Does Not Endorse Pimping

-Bruno S. is a little too charming of a street performer for my taste. Aren't street performers supposed to be kind of shitty? That way when you drop a dollar in their guitar case, you can think "Man, how great could they be if they didn't have to perform on the street?" If you're charming and talented as Bruno is, with his xylophone and accordion, people on the street are going to think "Wow, he's good. I bet he makes a ton of money," and then not give him a cent.

-In a truly bizarre scene, Bruno meets with his former doctor from the asylum, who, after hearing of Bruno's troubles with Eva's two pimps, takes Bruno to the premature baby ward. There he shows him a small baby and illustrates its strong reflexes by sticking his finger out and letting the baby tug itself upright. Then the doctor picks up the baby by its legs and lets it hang there and cry, as if this is also supposed to be a profound, enlightening experience for Bruno. This is a difficult scene to watch especially because it's clear we're watching a very real premature child.

-After the three (Bruno, Eva, and Scheitz) move to Railroad Flats, Wisconsin (actually Plainview, Wisconsin), we meet Scheitz's "nephew" who may actually be someone he met in the Air Force. The only words the nephew knows in German are "the dog is loose" and he explains at least two or three times that the town is called Railroad Flats because of, you know, all the railroads. In one of the funniest scenes, the nephew does a bizarre dance/sex-simulation where each pelvic thrust is a coin. When he moves his right hip, he says "nickel," when he moves his left, he says "dime" and when he thrusts forward, he says "quarter." He keeps repeating it until it becomes a mantra: "nickel, dime, quarter, loose change, nickel, dime, quarter.."

Chapter 14: The Loose Change Technique

-Man, the guy from the bank who comes to take Bruno's house looks like Stephen Merchant from the British Office and Extras. It's just...uncanny.

-When the bank forecloses on Bruno's house, Scheitz grabs a shotgun and declares that he'll kill everyone involved with the conspiracy to take his home away. The two drive downtown to the bank, but when they find it's closed, they rob a haircut place instead. Scheitz berates the barber, shouting "I know you're in on it too!" As disturbing as this sounds, there is something so hilarious about a small German man with a shotgun ranting about a conspiracy against him that I almost hoped the rest of the movie was just going to be Bruno and Scheitz riding around robbing people, while Scheitz screamed about the vast machinations of the conspiracy against him.