Bruno Schleinstein, 1932 - 2010

David Hudson

The heart of 78-year-old actor, painter and musician Bruno Schleinstein has failed him, reports the German Press Agency. From the Wikipedia entry: "Schleinstein was spotted by director Werner Herzog in the documentary Bruno der Schwarze - Es blies ein Jäger wohl in sein Horn (1970). Herzog promptly cast Schleinstein (under the name Bruno S.) as his lead actor in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974), though he had no acting experience. Schleinstein also starred in Stroszek (1977), which Herzog wrote especially for him in four days. Stroszek has a number of biographical details from Schleinstein's life, including the use of his own flat as the home of Bruno Stroszek. He also plays his own instruments." The entry links to some of Schleinstein's drawings and Polaroids.

Rumsey Taylor at Not Coming to a Theater Near You on Kaspar Hauser: "Despite its fiction there is a reality that underlines the film's every scene. This unique quality is reserved to Bruno S.' performance. When his character experiences emotions his actions convincingly correspond. The histories of each figure (Bruno and Kaspar) are timelessly similar: each has been deprived of a natural introduction to their world, and Bruno S.' performance as Hauser is brilliant, for the simple fact that they are for all intents and purposes the same character."

Back in 2008, Michael Kimmelman, the Berlin-based culture columnist for the New York Times, filed a piece from "the Stadtklause, a cozy wood-paneled dive near the remains of the Anhalter Bahnhof, the grand railway station torn down after the war. Franz-Josef Göbel, who runs the place, invited Bruno a couple of years ago to come sing whenever he felt up to it, not for money, just to have a place to go, and since then Bruno has stopped by on the odd night." In February 2009, here in The Daily Notebook, Neil Young recounted listening to and then meeting "Der Bruno" at the Stadtklause.

Update, 8/13: Many thanks to Thomas Groh for pointing us in a comment below to Thomas Littlewood's piece in Vice on making this video portrait of Bruno S.

Update, 8/15: "Bruno said in interviews that he had never wanted to be a movie star, and in time the benefits of fame faded, other than the occasional free haircut by a friendly barber," writes Douglas Martin in the New York Times. "'Everybody threw him away,' Bruno said of himself.... In 2002, the German filmmaker Miron Zownir made a documentary called Bruno S. — Estrangement Is Death. In it, Bruno seems to answer the many who worried that he had been exploited by Mr Herzog. 'I have my pride, and I can think,' he said, 'and my thinking is clever.'"

Update, 8/17: "Seen today, Kaspar Hauser has a whiff of hippie sanctimony weighing down its remarkable images," suggests Phil Nugent: "[I]t's attached to the idea that Kaspar, the mystery man who grew up outside society, is intrinsically superior to it. But Bruno's performance transcends the stalest of the movie's ideas.... The English critic Paul Coates once suggested that Bruno S. and Klaus Kinksi represented the two poles of Herzog's imaginative world, which he likened to Dostoyevsky's Myshkin and Raskolnikov. If Coates was onto something, the tragedy of Herzog's career is that both his two ideal leading men were taken away from him."

Update, 8/22: In his obituary for the Guardian, Ronald Bergan quotes Herzog at length: "Bruno is a man whose life in his youth was catastrophic and obviously made him a 'difficult' person to deal with. Sometimes he would stop work by ranting against the injustices of the world. I would stop the entire team in their tracks." Bergan notes that Herzog would tell them: "Even if it takes three or four hours of non-stop Bruno speaking about injustice we... would all listen. I would always make physical contact with him. I would always grab him and just hold his wrist. Otherwise, he is a man of phenomenal abilities and phenomenal depth and suffering. It translates on the screen like nothing I have ever done translates on to a screen. He is, for me, the Unknown Soldier of Cinema."

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