Invincible is a film by Werner Herzog, and if I also tell you it is rather peculiar that shouldn’t surprise you if you are familiar with his catalog.
I shan’t say much about Invincible. If you’re a fan of Herzog, particularly his moody and mysterious narrative films, you’ll likely enjoy this one. Sometimes the pacing is glacial, and the production can be a bit awkward or stiff, with acting and direction more in line with an after-school special than a theatrical release. But give it time and you will become accustomed to this.
As he often does in his documentaries, Herzog plays with his source material, making the real a little more real, or at least more in tune with his vision. He takes the story of Zishe Breitbart, a Jewish strongman who worked as an entertainer in Weimar Berlin, and modifies it by moving it 8 years closer to Hitler’s rise to power. Zishe admits his Jewishness on stage in front of a Nazi audience, which leads to catastrophic and unintended consequences for the fraudulent occultist who runs the show. There are echoes of the Golem myth, and Zishe comes to believe he has been sent by God to warn Jews of their imminent fate. Unfortunately his articulateness is nowhere near his physical strength, and everyone ignores his dire warning.
The acting is a bit reserved, with the exception of Tim Roth, who brings his typical intensity, and who chews up a bit of scenery. The lead is played by a real weight lifter, who has a bit more warmth and depth than others from that pr0fession who’ve starred in films.
My favorite moments included two dream sequences, when Zishe stands at the seashore amidst thousands of crabs. The crabs are clambering over volcanic rocks and onto train tracks. A slow-moving train appears and the crabs make no effort to get out of they way. They seem totally unaware or indifferent toward their impending doom. This dream seems to wake Zishe out of his compliance with his Nazi boss and audience.
So if you liked Heart of Glass or Stroszek or other non-Kinski vehicles, you might enjoy this. If you’re unfamiliar with Herzog, I’d start with something more accessible, like the documentary Grizzly Man. If you like that, move deeper into his ever-expanding catalog of curious and interesting little films.