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11/16/14

THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER - REVIEW


Werner Herzog famously cast then non-actor Bruno S. in this bizarre little film about a man who grew up being kept locked up in a dark basement who suddenly finds himself released in a small town.

The townspeople don't really know what to make of him, treating him like a prisoner, an animal and a child at various points until a well-off man takes him under his wing and teaches him the ways of the world, even ultimately going as far as attempting to introduce him to high society. The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser begins almost like a silent film as we get a glimpse of Hauser's day-to-day life pre-freedom. It's sinister, odd and remains a bit of a mystery for the rest of the film as a man dressed in black releases him randomly then occasionally pops back into his life, following him like some kind of lingering shadow of doom.

While not a documentary, Herzog doesn't over-stylise the film making it's Plato's cave-style plot more palatable and Kaspar Hauser's character arc easier to identify with. Being an early effort for the director, there are a few experimental visual touches here and there as the settings are shown to us through what looks like expressionist paintings every now and then. Bruno S. turns out to be the perfect casting choice for the role: there's a real innocence in his eyes and the way he talks is appropriately off-beat, there's also a fragility to him and you can tell this was a story he personally identified with. The film plays out a little like something akin to Being There, with a candid character discovering the world for the first time, which makes the surprising downer ending all the more impactful.

Fans of Werner Herzog's work should definitely check out The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser, it's a strange character study but one that's worth sticking around for.

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