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The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Actors: Bruno S., Walter Ladengast, Brigitte Mira, Willy Semmelrogge, Michael Kroecher
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2002     1hr 50min

In his widely acclaimed attempt to fathom The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, director Werner Herzog probes a real-life mystery that has puzzled German society for nearly two centuries. In the title role, Herzog ingeniously cast ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Bruno S., Walter Ladengast, Brigitte Mira, Willy Semmelrogge, Michael Kroecher
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/08/2002
Original Release Date: 01/01/1974
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/1974
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 50min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: German
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

"What a fine, what a beautiful report this will make!"
Bryan Byrd | Earth | 01/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When Clemens Scheitz, the scribe from "Kasper Hauser", walks away at the end of the film, muttering to himself what a fine report he will make of the mystery of the abandoned young man Kasper Hauser, it is apparent that Werner Herzog is making a statement about missing the forest for the trees. Or perhaps a more apt analogy would be missing the beauty of the forest because we are too busy counting all the leaves. Either way, the true enigma, the true mystery surrounding Kasper, according to Herzog, is not so much where he came from and how he existed before being abandoned in the village square, but how a person with no experience whatsoever with the outside world would perceive reality. What would a bird, a tree, a fellow human seem like to someone who had been locked in a cellar for their entire life? How would it be different from someone with a normal upbringing? Would either one be more valid?

At the end of "Kasper Hauser", I realized I had watched a very tender movie, one that floated around the edges of my mind for several days after. I am not a fan of all of Herzog's films, though I do enjoy several of them. But what makes "Kasper" one of his best is the fantastic performance of Bruno S. I believe Herzog took some flak for casting Bruno, since there was some question of his competancy. I don't know about that, but I thought he handled the acting chores in both "Kasper" and in Stroszek superbly, and because of Herzog's direction, Bruno's characters emerge with the most humanity, the most dignity.

This film garners high reviews here, and deservedly so, for its thought provoking subject matter and sensuous filmmaking technique. Someone unfamiliar with Herzog's films might be disappointed after watching though. This is not your standard Hollywood type movie. That's not to say one is better than the other - beauty is always in the eye of the beholder - but this is a German film, with English subtitles, and that is enough to discourage some people from watching right there. The other thing is Herzog's directing style is also different, at times difficult to adjust to. When he discovers a shot he likes, he lingers. And lingers. And lingers some more, until, as a viewer, I'm tempted to shout at the screen, "Ok, already".

If you are a Herzog fan, and haven't seen "Kasper Hauser", I'd strongly recommend it. If you are not, but are looking for something different and thought provoking, then it's definitely still recommended, though with the caveat that Herzog's films require a bit of an adjustment if you are used to the mainstream. With some patience and open-mindedness, though, they can also be just as fulfilling, if not more so."
"I dreamt of the Caucasus..."
Kerry Walters | Lewisburg, PA USA | 07/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It seems that every Herzog film I see is better than the last, and "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser" continues that trend. Herzog tells the story of the apparently feral youth who showed up in a Bavarian town in the early 19th century, and of the five years he lived being groomed for "civilization."

In Herzog's hands, the tale is a melancholy and occasionally poignant one. Hauser is unspeakably abused for most of his life by his jailer (his father?), chained to a cellar basement with no human companionship, never having seen the light of day. Upon his mysterious release, he's barely able to speak or stand, and is viewed as something between a "noble savage" and a monster. Taken in hand by a kindly doctor, Kaspar gradually learns to speak and to feel and haltingly express sometimes overwhelming emotions when confronted with the beauty of the natural world, music, and poetry. But he feels trapped inside his own limitations and frustratingly stymied. As his Sehnsucht deepens, he finds himself increasingly alienated by the civilized world into which he's been cast and the identity that's being forced on him by those authority figures who think they know best.

The depth of Kaspar's soul-hunger is expressed several times throughout the film, but perhaps the most memorable occasion is when he's asked if he ever dreamt during his years of speechless imprisonment. "Yes," he replies. "I dreamt of the Caucasus." He dreamt of high, cold, pure places. In that single line, it seems to me that Herzog captures the mystery, joy, and tragedy of the human longing for transcendence.

The script is excellent, the cinematography entrancing--corn rippling in the wind, Kaspar sucking an egg and gazing out through a crack in the shed where he sits, the interspersions of magic lantern-like images of tall mountain peaks and barren deserts--and the musical score nicely accenturates the scenes and story. But without a doubt, the center of the film is the incomparable performance of Bruno S. as Kaspar.

Viewers might be interested in comparing Herzog's "Kaspar" with Truffaut's "L'Enfant sauvage.""