Tuesday 19 February 8pm

“A lyrical film about the least lyrical of men”. - Roger Ebert 

The Bavarian director Werner Herzog is one of the greats. He made his first feature in 1968 and is still making brilliant films today.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser was released in 1974 and is Herzog’s third feature film after the brilliantly titled Even Dwarfs Started Small and Aguirre: Wrath of God (which lost out to Sweet Smell of Success in our vote of films about men with ‘psychotic egos’).

There are lots of incredible things about this film but the most remarkable is its lead actor Bruno S who plays Kaspar Hauser.  Bruno never knew his father, his mother was prostitute and at the age of three he was sent to an institution for children with learning difficulties. After that, with almost no education, he spent the next 23 years in various institutions and prisons.

Herzog discovered Bruno after seeing him in a documentary about his life. At the time he was street musician and forklift truck driver.

He says, “Bruno was so unbelievably good on screen. He has such depth and power, and he moves me so deeply like no other actor in the world.”

If you’re taken by Bruno in this film then you really must watch Stroszek, his second collaboration with Herzog.

If there are any Krautrock fans in the audience Florian Fricke who was in the band Popul Vuh, played with Tangerine Dream plays a pianist in the film.

In The AV Club’s Werner Herzog primer they list The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser under ‘Advanced Studies’ and I think it probably is the most challenging film we’ve shown so far.  

The film is based on a true story. In 1828 a young man suddenly appeared in Nuremberg in barely able to speak or walk and claiming to have spent his entire life held captive in a dungeon. 

So what’s the film actually about? This is what Herzog says about The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser in Paul Cronin’s book Herzog on Herzog.

“What really interested me was the story of someone who had not been influenced or contaminated in any way by society and outside forces, someone with no notion of anything whatsoever...Kaspar was, in the most purest sense, a being without culture, language and civilisation, an almost primeval human being.

As such he suffered greatly from his contact with people and society. Not an idiot, rather a saint like Joan of Arc, something that I feel really comes in Bruno’s performance. So for me the story of this boy is really almost a science fiction tale that takes in the age-old idea of aliens who arrive on our planet... They have no human and social conditioning whatsoever and walk around confused and amazed.

The real question is perhaps anthropological: what happens to a man who has crashed on to our planet with no education and no culture? What does he feel? What does he see? What must a tree or a horse look to such an arrival? And how will he be treated?”

You'll have to watch the film to find out.

Watch the trailer >>

Why Did We Pick It?

As in Zelig another film in which the cenrtral character is considered a freak by society.

Related Links

Your Next Five Werner Herzog Films - Nigel's picks of what to watch after Kaspar Hauser

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser on IMDb

Werner Herzog | AV Club Primer  - excellent intro to the great man's work



AuthorNigel Smith