Herzog's first narrative feature in a decade is an embarrassment. Backed by FilmFour and consequently presented in what sounds like dubbed English, his Weimar-era fable aims for simplicity and innocence but comes off as simpleminded and naive. The promising material concerns Zishe (Ahola), a blacksmith in a Polish schtetl whose colossal strength catches the eye of a showbiz agent with car trouble. Persuaded to pursue his destiny in Berlin, Zishe is put on stage in Hanussen's Theatre of the Occult club as 'Siegfried the Gladiator', the strongest man in the world. The club is a favourite haunt of the Nazis, who flock to hear the seer Hanussen (Roth), so when the lovesick Zishe declares himself a Jew, chaos erupts. Unfortunately, the confusion extends to the film itself. The sluggish pace, broken-backed storytelling and unspeakable dialogue leave the non-professional actors spooning like fish out of water. Even more surprising is the film's visual poverty. Its most memorable image - a plague of red crabs - is recycled from the director's documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly.
Cast and crew
Gustav Peter Wöhler