Monday, November 16, 2009

#428: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)

Original Title: Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Eng: Every Man for Himself and God Against All)
Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Bruno S., Walter Ladengast & Brigitte Mira

SURPRISE! Starz has been kind enough to post the full video on YouTube! If you're interested, here's the link:

Kaspar Hauser appeared on the streets of Nuremberg in 1828. Nobody knew him. He carried a bible in one hand, an anonymous note in the other. He was unable to walk properly, and the only words he could speak were, "horse!", "don't know", and "I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was". The townspeople took care of him, teaching him to walk, speak, and other ways of civilization. When he was able, he explained that he had spent his whole life in a small room, being fed through a hole in the door. His unseen captor spoke only rarely. Years later, Hauser was attacked with a knife. He claimed he recognized his attacker's voice as his captor from his previous life. After another few years, Hauser was attacked again, fatally stabbed.

Oh, and this is a true story.

Nobody ever learned the true story behind Hauser. Many of his benefactors in Nuremberg complained that Hauser was a compulsive liar, and doubted his claims of being held in confinement. His speedy learning process hinted at this as well. Even his death is doubted - many believe he was trying to prolong the publicity he had come to know so well by stabbing himself.

Herzog decided to ignore all of that in his film. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser tells the tale of the boy from his own point of view. Instead of detailing the actual events with accuracy, Herzog uses the famous tale to question the conventions of society. Hauser is constantly baffled by conventional behaviors. For example, he asks why women can "only knit and cook". He is also completely repulsed when he is showcased one evening by an upper-class Englishman who hopes to adopt Hauser - most likely to flaunt his possession of such an enigma.

The strangest part of the film by far is the casting. Herzog decided not to cast a teenager for Hauser, which would have been appropriate. Instead, he cast 42-year-old Bruno S., the street performer and son of a prostitute. Bruno's life was (and continues to be, to this day,) a difficult one. After his mother died early in Bruno's life, he became what the Nazis called an ausschusskinder, or discarded child - a term no longer used in Germany. These children were sent to psychiatric clinics where the Nazis performed experiments. Bruno's state of mind has always been questionable, which has led to controversy whether he knew what he was doing with Herzog, and whether Herzog took advantage of Bruno's state of mind.

Ebert described this film as 'lyrical', which is as precise of a description as you will come to find. It isn't fantastic acting or even remarkable visually, but the storytelling is thought-provoking, seeing the world from the eyes of somebody who had never experienced it before.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • No trivia available :( But at least you have the whole movie linked above!

No comments:

Post a Comment