Petty criminal Bruno Stroszek (Bruno S.) gets out of prison, walks straight into a bar and runs into an old acquaintance named Eva (Mattes), a prostitute who’s being mistreated by her pimps. Stroszek invites her to live with him in his ramshackle apartment that his elderly neighbor Scheitz (Scheitz) has kept up for him. Scheitz is emigrating to America to live with his nephew. When Eva’s pimps start making life difficult for the oddball couple, Stroszek and Eva decide to accompany Scheitz to Wisconsin in pursuit of the elusive American dream.
Herzog’s seventh feature reunites him with the star of “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser,” the real-life street musician Bruno S., who plays a variation of himself in this existential tragicomedy. Herzog shot in Bruno’s Berlin apartment, where we see the actor playing his own grand piano. The film reflects Herzog’s fascination with serial killer Ed Gein (the inspiration for “Psycho’); he filmed the Wisconsin scenes in Gein’s hometown, using local residents in smaller roles, including mechanic Szalpinski as Scheitz’s nephew. The bleak settings and grim predicament of the characters contrast with touches of absurdity throughout, most notably a dancing chicken suggesting the plight of the human condition. Profoundly tragic and deeply funny, “Stroszek” could only spring from the brilliant, demented mind of Werner Herzog.