Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)

"Why is everything so hard for me? Why can't I play the piano like I can breathe?"

I've been fascinated by the story of Kaspar Hauser since I was a child. Was he a fraud? Why was he brought up in such bleak captivity? Did he really subsist for twelve years on bread and water? It would be cool if he were indeed the rightful Duke of Baden as many say, much as I'm wary of conspiracy theories: I'm not one of those who think the Moon landings were faked or any of that silliness. But the 2002 DNA test results are interesting.

Anyway, Werner Herzog doesn't really dwell on the conspiracy theory angle: he's not Oliver Stone. Instead we get a meditation on innocence, beauty, a twisted kind of childhood and the strangeness of religion to one not indoctrinated, all anchored by Bruno S as Hauser who, bizarrely, was in his late thirties at the time. Even the English title is misleading: the German title translates as Every Man for Himself and God Against All.

This very Bavarian film is an utter triumph for Herzog, the world's most avowedly Bavarian filmmaker. From the classical soundtrack to the visuals to the poetic stories told by Hauser- his deathbed story is pregnant with meaning- this is an extraordinary film and a beautiful work of art. Just don't expect any real focus on the mystery.

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