Sunday 29 September 2013

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser [1974]

The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, considered by many as one of his finest achievements, was Herzog’s deft and allegorical meditation on human civilization and what it entails to take the journey from darkness to light, so to speak. This, therefore, might very well be considered as a companion piece to his previous film, Aguirre the Wrath ofGod, where he masterfully explored the other side of the coin. This unusual biopic chronicled the true story of the titular Kasper Hauser (performed with memorable impassivity by Bruno Schleinstein), a mysterious boy-man who, after being kept in captivity for the first 17 years of his life, chained in a dingy cellar, is suddenly allowed to leave. Hardly able to speak, devoid of any awareness of social customs and behavior, and oblivious of the world and the people around him, he seems like an alien from outer space when he is left stranded in Nuremberg by the man who had kept him locked. Different people react differently to this strange man – some treat him with genuine warmth and kindness, some consider him as a freak of nature, some try to make some money out of his odd situation, some marvel at his uniqueness, and some are shocked and put off by his existence. The society, out of a patronizing concern, tries to civilize him so that he can become one of them; however, the more he is educated about the various worldly matters and made to conform to the various structures and norms around him, the more he realizes that this is a strange world filled with hypocrisies, brutalities and ignorance, and how elusive true freedom and knowledge really are. The end results were understated, quietly profound, and undeniably poignant.

Director: Werner Herzog
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Biopic
Language: German
Country: Germany


Sam Juliano said...

I consider this Herzog's absolute masterpiece, and this is another film that made a powerful impression on me during the time in my life I was discovery European art house cinema in theaters. You have covered all bases in this extraordinary review Shubhajit!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. This possibly rates right after Aguirre (which, by the way, is my favorite Herzog, followed by Fitzcarraldo) in terms of both acclaim & popularity.