"[Bruno] projects a kind of sincerity that is almost disturbing, and you realize that there is no corner anywhere within Bruno for a lie to take hold." - Roger Ebert
Watching Stroszek, I was overwhelmed by how endearing and tragic I found Bruno, and since this film was made for and based on Bruno S. himself, I would like to use this blog post to examine exactly why I connected so deeply with a character nothing like myself.
For one, he's just kind of adorable. His ramblings and mannerisms are disconcerting at times, but they are also engaging. The moment when he plays music in the courtyard and opens with "Ladies and Gentlemen, Bruno will now play something on his glockenspiel because Bruno now has Eva at home" melted my heart, as did his playing (see video below). He treats Eva and everyone else around him with respect and kindness that he is rarely shown himself.
I am also drawn to his somewhat asexual characterization. Though sex is an important part of the film (especially since Eva is a prostitute), it is never actually depicted, or even close to depicted. Bruno and Eva, though we are supposed to believe they are a couple for the majority of the film, never even kiss. Instead, they display intimacy through their care for one another and a few peaceful, domestic moments when they first arrive in Wisconsin. There is something appealing to me, and I would like to think many women, about being loved by a man without the physical aspect of a relationship. But of course, Eva leaves him, so this relationship was clearly still flawed.
Which brings me to the real tragedy of the film: Bruno's passive acceptance of all of the misfortunes in his life. In The Practice of Everyday Life, De Certeau notes, "Little by little, belief became polluted, like the air and the water" (179). Watching Bruno is watching someone lose their belief in the American dream (and the world). Every moment of joy Bruno experiences just adds to the poignancy when things go wrong. Playing the glockenspiel because he's so happy Eva is living with him makes it harder to watch when she repeatedly runs away from him. I have mixed feelings about Eva leaving Bruno, since I do not want to blame a woman for wanting to leave a relationship she is not happy in (or to shame a woman for choosing prostitution), but as a viewer I can't help but feel somewhat resent her for how much she hurt him when I watch him walk away from the truck outside the restaurant, never to see her again. Seeing Eva and Beo bonding adds to the tragedy of having his bird taken from him at customs. Watching Bruno play his piano and take care of it adds another touch to the horror when he is beaten and humiliated by the pimps on top of his own piano in his own apartment.
It was painful to watch this sweet, genuine man try and fail over and over, never to succeed. I am not quite sure the importance of these feelings, but art is supposed to move the viewer, and Stroszek accomplished that.
(I also really enjoyed hearing Werner Herzog's commentary, because next to actually experiencing the film, my favorite part of watching movies is learning all of the behind-the-scenes details as soon as I'm done watching a film.)