It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Who else but Werner Herzog would make a film about a retarded ex-prisoner, a little old man and a prostitute, who leave Germany to begin a new life in a house trailer in Wisconsin? Who else would shoot the film in the hometown of Ed Gein, the murderer who inspired "Psycho" (1960)? Who else would cast all the local roles with locals? Who else would end the movie with a policeman radioing, "We've got a truck on fire, can't find the switch to turn the ski lift off, and can't stop the dancing chicken. Send an electrician."
"Stroszek" (1977) is one of the oddest films ever made. It is impossible for the audience to anticipate a single shot or development. We watch with a kind of fascination, because Herzog cuts loose from narrative and follows his characters through the relentless logic of their adventure. Then there is the haunting impact of the performance by Bruno S., who is at every moment playing himself.
The personal history of Bruno S. forms the psychic background for the film. Bruno was the son of a prostitute, beaten so badly he was deaf for a time. He was in a mental institution from the ages of 3 to 26--and yet was not, in Herzog's opinion, mentally ill; it was more that the blows and indifference of life had shaped him into a man of intense concentration, tunnel vision, and narrow social skills. He looks as if he has long been expecting the worst to happen.
Herzog, who with Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder brought forth the New German Cinema in the late 1960s and 1970s, saw Bruno in a documentary about street musicians. He cast him in the extraordinary film "Every Man for Himself and God Against All" (1974), also known as "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser." It told the story of an 18th century man locked in a cellar until he was an adult, and then set loose on the streets to make what sense he could of the world. Bruno was uncannily right for the role, and right, too, for "Stroszek," which Herzog wrote in four days.