In Werner Herzog’s feature-length debut Signs of Life, injured German paratrooper Stroszek (Peter Brogle) – no relation to the lost-in-America protagonist of the filmmaker's 1977 tour de force – finds himself stationed with his wife and two fellow soldiers on the Greek isle of Kos, where he’s tasked with protecting a fortress’ cache of ammunition from (seemingly non-existent) rebels. With little to do but watch one companion decipher ancient stone tablets and another concoct elaborate traps for roaches, Stroszek slowly begins to lose his mind, a mysterious and ultimately lethal disintegration for which Herzog – unlike Kubrick with his subsequent, similar The Shining – offers no apparent explanation. Produced for a meager $20k, Signs of Life utilizes an ambient soundscape and quasi-mystical cinematography of its ruins-littered locale to create a sense of otherworldly dissonance between man and nature. Especially in its Bergman-esque shot of Stroszek crazily flailing about on a hilltop overlooking a sea of spinning windmills, Herzog’s tale of deadly ennui is stunningly haunting and somber. And yet the film nonetheless also exhibits the director’s off-kilter sense of the absurd, whether it be in a quite amusing climactic image of its antihero jumping around his empty stronghold, or in Wolfgang Reichmann’s insect-hating Meinhard articulating heartfelt disgust at learning that a tiny toy owl’s moving eyes and ears are powered by flies trapped inside its wooden frame.