As contemplative, bittersweet comedies go Schultze Gets the Blues can do no wrong. The film follows the journey of its titular character from mine worker to traveller – a journey infused with a sense of internal and external exploration. Schultze (Horst Krause), when forced to retire from his mining job, finds himself in the uncertain certainty of post-work life. He visits his mother, spends time with his friends, and plays the accordion, destined to do so until his last day. But when he hears something unfamiliar and yet all too familiar on the radio, he bursts into action.
The music was ‘zydeco’, and Schultze takes his first steps into engulfing himself in another style and, consequently, of understanding the possibilities for difference it provides. When offered the chance to go to Texas for a polka festival, he decides that there is more than just the preordained and expected out there, and begins exploring the unexpected in other parts of America.
First time director Michael Schorr manages to balance the obscurity and randomness inherent in the main character with a patience to explore him. Schutlze, the ostensible hero of this story, is initially stuck in routine, but begins to understand the distances individuals are capable of reaching – both geographically and personally. We see him and situations he finds himself in by and large presented with straight deadpan. In capturing America with stoicism, Schorr straddles the line between the inherent stylistic leanings that the cinematic culture “Europe” seemingly purports with the natural, mundane graces of everyday life. Winning Best film at the 2003 Stockholm International Film Festival, Schultze Gets the Blues proves to be a worthwhile trip into the mind of an abnormal character – a trip, much like that taken by Schultze, that does not overbear its audience with trivial, convoluted meanderings, but considerately explores passion, purpose and selfhood.