Monday, October 10, 2016

Signs of Life (1968)

Original title: Lebenszeichen

Director: Werner Herzog

Writers: Werner Herzog, Achim von Arnim

Starring: Peter Brogle, Wolfgang Reichman, Athina Zacharopoulou, Wolfgang von Ungern-Sternberg, Wolfgang Stumpf, Henry van Lyck, Julio Pinheiro, Florian Fricke, Heinz Usener, Achmed Hafiz

More info: IMDb

Plot: A wounded German paratrooper named Stroszek is sent to the quiet island of Kos with his wife Nora, a Greek nurse, and two other soldiers recovering from minor wounds. Billeted in a decaying fortress, they guard a munitions depot. There's little to do. Slowly, in the heat and torpor, Stroszek goes mad, drives the others from the fortress, and threatens the city with blowing up the depot. With care, the German command must figure out how to get him down.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

There's a moment where Stroszek (Brogle) loses his shit at the top of a hill, flailing his arms and firing his rifle into the air.  There's no sound but the Greek score and it's brilliant.  5 minutes later he's taken the ammo dump hostage.  Herzog does a good job of constructing a series of scenes to get to that point so that the audience can get a good idea of how this can happen.  These few people are essentially stranded at this place, seemingly abandoned by the world.  The Greek-influenced score, while sparse, is fantastic.  The end is abrupt but I suspect that was a budget constraint.  We hear about what happened in the narration but it does feel a little like a cheat.  The New Yorker DVD presents the film in its original fullframe presentation. There are some extras; you get a commentary track with Herzog, the theatrical trailer and 4 trailers to other New Yorker Video films.

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