"Stroszek is an injured soldier sent to recuperate at a remote Greek island. There, he and his new Greek wife, Nora, serve as caretakers to an abandoned ammunition dump. The newlyweds adjust to their new life on this enchanted desert isle and attend to their simple duties, but soon, the heat, the exotic locale, and the suspicious, eccentric natives push Stroszek towards insanity. He finally snaps, tries to kill his wife, then plans to ignite the ammunition dump. Ultimately, soldiers swarm the area, trying to capture the psychotic Stroszek before he blows up the whole island.
Signs of Life is the debut feature from Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Fitzcarraldo; Nosferatu), the director that both Milos Forman and François Truffaut have called "the greatest filmmaker alive today."
Werner Herzog's first feature-length film, Signs of Life is the work of a confident 24-year old filmmaker who knew exactly what he was doing. Many of the stylistic and thematic concerns that would inform Herzog's later films are fully evident here, from his mixture of documentary-like realism and strange, dream-like passages to the bold use of location as character. Set on a remote Greek island during World War II, the slowly paced story unfolds as an injured, recuperating soldier named Stroszek (Peter Brogle) and his new wife Nora (Athina Zacharopoulou) grow accustomed to their slow and quiet life of seclusion. Herzog captures a palpable sense of boredom, but his film is anything but tedious for those who are seduced by its peculiar rhythms and exotic locale. As Stroszek (a name later used as the title of one of Herzog's best-known films) loses his grip on reality and threatens to detonate the munitions dump he's been assigned to care for, Signs of Life attains an elusive, mystical quality that makes it linger in the memory long after you've seen it. New Yorker Video's DVD release is also blessed by a fascinating audio commentary by Herzog devotee Norman Hill and the director himself, whose vivid memories of making Signs of Life add further insight into the curious qualities of this odd yet unforgettable film. --Jeff Shannon
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