David Lynch and Werner Herzog are two of the most influential pioneers in the history of 20th-century cinema and they are still going strong. Known for some of the definitive masterpieces they have made like Eraserhead and Aguirre, the Wrath of God among many others, Lynch and Herzog should definitely be counted among the greatest living filmmakers of our time because they have never compromised on their respective artistic visions.
Lynch had previously collaborated with Herzog on the 2009 crime drama My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done in which he came on board as a producer. Five years later, during a Q&A session, Lynch was asked to name his favourite Werner Herzog film and he answered “Stroszek” without any hesitation and also without any explanation.
Werner Herzog’s 1977 tragicomedy tells the story of a Berlin street musician who leaves Germany after getting out of prison. In the elusive search for a better life, he finds himself in Wisconsin as the ideal of the American Dream quickly transforms into something else altogether. Primarily shot in Wisconsin, Stroszek is one of the most bizarre films ever made but it is undeniably beautiful.
In an interview with Roger Ebert, Herzog elaborated on the strange symbolism used in Stroszek and some of the perceptions of the people on set: “I don’t know how and why; the strange thing is that with both the crabs and the dancing chicken at the end of Stroszek, the crew couldn’t take it, they hated it, they were a loyal group.
“In the case of Stroszek, they hated it so badly that I had to operate the camera myself because the cinematographer who was very good and dedicated, hated it so much that he didn’t want to shoot it. He said, ‘I’ve never seen anything as dumb as that.’ And I tried to say, ‘You know there’s something so big about it.’ But they couldn’t see it.”
Adding, “When you are speaking about these images, there’s something bigger about them, and I keep saying that we do have to develop an adequate language for our state of civilisation, and we do have to create adequate pictures — images for our civilisation. If we do not do that, we die out like dinosaurs.”