THE ENIGMA OF KASPER HAUSER, 1974
Cast: Bruno S., Walter Ladengast, Brigitte Mira, Willy Semmelrogge, Michael Kroecher, Hans Musä
Herzog's film is based upon the true and mysterious story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who suddenly appeared in Nuremberg in 1828, barely able to speak or walk, and bearing a strange note; he later explained that he had been held captive in a dungeon of some sort for his entire life that he could remember, and only recently was he released, for reasons unknown. His benefactor attempts to integrate him into society, with intriguing results.
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In the deeply touching film "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser", Werner Herzog again teams up with Bruno S. for yet another magnificent performance. As the old German tale states, Kaspar Hauser appeared in a main square of Nuremberg, barely able to walk or speak. Supposedly this man was cut off from all forms of human contact, for the first 17 years of his life.
The story in this case is about man vs. himself; how one man can persevere against seemingly impossible odds. The only phrase Kaspar knows how to say when he first arrives in the town is, " I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was." However through Hauser's harrowing journey, he comes to some very poignant and philosophically groundbreaking conclusions.
Another very effective technique incorporated by Herzog in this film, is the use of an entirely different film stock. There are a couple scenes where after an attack on Hauser, Herzog cuts to a blue sky, then after that, a burning desert. These sort of non-sequitur's I believe, convey how detached Hauser feels to the world in general. I found these incredibly emotionally resonant.
The film's genius is how it leaves you in the dark; much like how Kaspar himself is unsure of the events that take place in his life. Herzog, in true form, leaves you with many unanswered questions. This could be quite infuriating for some, but fortunately, I was very fond of this technique.
In the opening scene of this film, Herzog presents a quote: “don’t you hear all that horrible screaming all around you? That screaming men call silence?” Initially when I saw this quote, I was intrigued, but didn't entirely know what to expect. I realize now that the silence Herzog is referring to is the complicit silence that the town people have as they put Hauser into a freak show to make funding off of him. This kind of tendency- to immediately classify someone different then us, as on a lower social standing- is nothing short of appalling.
Herzog really speaks to human condition, it has been stated in multiple blogs that "this is the story of a soul". A really triumphant, and very accessible film. Between this an Aguirre: Wrath of God, I don't think I can decide which is my favorite. Also, this film is very true to the story of the original Kasper Hauser... not so much an interpretation as it is a literal -yet vivid- depiction. This film brought on a desire to actually go to see Kaspar Hauser's grave... maybe someday.