THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER
(Directed by Warner Herzog, 1975)
****+ (out of 5)
. Since Herzog has grown to be one of my very favorite directors after an amazing career from AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD and FITZCARRALDO, through LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY and NOSFERATU and GRIZZLY MAN and THE ABYSS and MY BEST FIEND: KLAUS KINSKI- I decided to make a point to go back and fill in the gaps. I love his documentaries. I love his fictions. I’m glad he does both. I don’t know how I managed to miss this major international film at the time of its release, when I was regularly frequenting art-film houses in L.A. to devour world cinema. Thank goodness for DVD.
. From opening images to the final frame, this is a near-perfect film. It is never less than fascinating to watch Bruno S. as the mysterious unsocialized Kaspar Hauser; mysteriously kept prisoner all his life, spending his childhood and young adult years isolated in a keep, never learning to walk or talk, never seeing another person, never eating anything but bread. One day, his keeper abandons him in a town square with an anonymous note in his hand, explaining (cryptically) who he is. An overwhelmed and confused Kaspar is taken in by the townsfolk, who teach him the ways of civilized man and then exploit him as a freak to make him “pay his way”.
. It’s a well-known legend in Germany- and a perfect vehicle of the mercurial eye of Warner Herzog. My only criticism is really a form of praise: Mr. Herzog showed so much restraint here, sometimes it all feels a bit truncated. Kaspar learns to speak and express himself so quickly, I wanted more. Bruno S. (also featured in Herzog’s STROSZEK) was a delight to watch, spitting out words in staccato outbursts, in a struggle to make himself understood. His wide eyed wonderment was touching and believable, his dialogue- sublimely realized. As a result, I wanted this great film to be longer, expanded, more fleshed-out- real praise, when many filmmakers seem to prattle on long after they’ve worn out their welcome. Herzog has crafted a very haunting and lyrical film in THE ENIGMA OF KASPER HAUSER.
. If you aren’t foreign film phobic, and you haven’t seen it RENT IT NOW. I think you’ll be intrigued.
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