The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Biopic [feature], Period Film  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - Germany   |   MPAA Rating - NR
  • AllMovie Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Share on

Review by Lucia Bozzola

Visionary New German Cinema director Werner Herzog's U.S. breakthrough, Jeder für Sich und Gott Gegen Alle or The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser is a poignant, visually exquisite allegory of how civilization breeds despair. Based on a true story similar to the case in François Truffaut's The Wild Child (1970), Herzog's rendering of isolated, preverbal foundling Kaspar Hauser's release into the world as an adult reveals the perverse effects of "rational" thought and culture on natural, soulful innocence. While the painterly landscapes and lustrous dream images of deserts, mountains, lakes, and a golden, wind-swept field underline the beauty and wonder of the natural world outside his cellar, the limits imposed by language and the absurd urge to codify all experience become a "hard fall" to earth for the instinctually insightful and inadvertently threatening Kaspar. Along with Herzog's odd angles and compositions, former mental patient Bruno S.'s ethereal, evocatively affectless performance as Kaspar makes him both endearing and strange, emphasizing his impossible place in 19th century society. Enhancing Herzog's burgeoning reputation as an intense iconoclast after Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival and became an international success.