(Originally written July 11, 2006)
This Werner Herzog masterpiece is about a man named Stroszek who decides to get away from the hardships of Berlin and move to Wisconsin for a new life. He brings along his prostitute friend Eva, who is attempting to run away from her violent pimps. At first they seem to be enjoying their new home in the land of opportunity, but Stroszek soon learns that America is not as friendly as he expected. This is a film in which every scene is memorable and engaging. The complexity of the writing is evident in the characters who are usually likable but sometimes despicable. Herzog’s view of America is critical, and Stroszek artistically paints a portrait of our country that is, by no means, flattering. America is shown to be a place unsympathetic to those who are different, particularly those who speak a different language. The citizens are materialistic and unwelcoming to those who are truly in need. Many of the Americans appear to be friendly but often have ulterior motives that are depraved or twisted. The cruelty is reminiscent of The Grapes of Wrath but perhaps more affecting because the film does not refer so specifically to an era such as the Great Depression. The film is never overwhelmingly didactic or preachy, simply offering an alternate perspective. The characters are eccentric in terms of both their physical appearances and their personalities. With its complex vision of an overrated nation, Stroszek is possibly the most underrated film of all time.