In the ’70s, the German director Werner Herzog (”Aguirre, the Wrath of God”) had a far-flung fervor matched only by his genius for calling attention to himself. Both sides are on display in Invincible, his first dramatic feature in 10 years. Based on a Jewish legend, the movie, set in Poland and Berlin in 1932, features such folkloric characters as a saintly young shtetl blacksmith who may be the single strongest man in Europe, as well as a clairvoyant hypnotist with burning coal eyes who presides over occult stage shows in which he predicts the rise of Hitler before throngs of beaming Nazis.
The blacksmith is played by Finnish bodybuilder Jouko Ahola, who has a wonderful ironic gentleness, and the mesmerist is played by Tim Roth, who just about grips the screen with his haughty treachery. Herzog was right to want these outlandish characters up on screen, but that doesn’t mean he completely figured out what to do with them. ”Invincible” is half-baked Herzog, though it has twinkles of theatrical purity that remind you of when his vision was grand.