Strongman was named one of the best documentaries of 2011 by Roger Ebert, and selected as a New York Times Critics’ Pick, STRONGMAN documents the life of strength performer Stanless Steel over the course of ten years.
Stanless Steel—“The Strongest Man in the World at Bending Steel and Metal”—is the only man alive capable of bending a U.S. penny with his fingers. But the world around Stan—his aging parents, his alcoholic brother, his beautiful but timid announcer-girlfriend, his show-biz agents and strength rivals, and even Stan himself—is not so malleable. As the pressure mounts, what starts as a portrait of a loveable outsider and his unique feats of strength soon becomes a deeply universal, funny, and poignant story about trying to find a path to a better life through the scraps and dented dreams of our modern times.
Made over ten years in an intimate cinema verite fashion, Strongman offers not only a look at an uncommon subculture but something deeper about the search for strength in all our lives. The critically-acclaimed film is both immediately accessible and profoundly resonant, as we discover in its star a true American original—both an Everyman and a Superman—who sticks
in your heart and reveals new layers with each viewing.
I was sent a copy to review and I jumped at the chance to watch it. Obviously, I love strongman stuff. I knew of Stanless Steel although I had never met him, I had heard of his strength and personality from guys like Dennis Rogers and Bud Jeffries.
As for lessons to learn from this film, the big one is that to be a performing strongman, your actual strength isn’t the most important thing. You need to know how to put on a show and deliver your strength in a way that people get and is highly entertaining. That seems to be the main point of the film and something Stan doesn’t quite grasp how to do the whole time. And in that regard I found this film a slightly depressing, but at least Stan remains ever hopeful and positive.
I would have liked to see some more training footage, as I’m sure you would if you’re reading this. One exercise I did pick up from the film and have tried since watching it is the form in which Stanless likes to do sledgehammer levering. Rather than a straight hold or lifting it off the ground or to your nose, he picks it up off of a height in front of him.
If you’re into oldtime strongmen style feats I would highly suggest giving this one a watch. It’s available on Amazon as a DVD and streaming instant video, as well as other places where DVD’s are available.