Herzog's film is based upon the true and mysterious story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who suddenly appeared in Nuremberg in 1828, barely able to speak or walk, and bearing a strange note;... See full summary »
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Herzog's film is based upon the true and mysterious story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who suddenly appeared in Nuremberg in 1828, barely able to speak or walk, and bearing a strange note; he later explained that he had been held captive in a dungeon of some sort for his entire life that he could remember, and only recently was he released, for reasons unknown. His benefactor attempts to integrate him into society, with intriguing results. Written by
Mike D'Angelo <email@example.com>
Herzog's characters tend to have an uneasy relation to language, whether they are Kaspar, who lives years in his life without language at all,Bruno(Stroszek,1976)who, rather than explaining his emotions,builds a "schematic model" of his feelings, or Fini Straubinger(Land of Silence and Darkness 1970),who cannot explain in words how it feels to be blind and deaf.Indeed, virtually all of Herzog's films are populated by marginal beings who resist language or who affirm its insufficiency to produce "true" meaning.For Herzog, their resistance to language is clearly a sign of their purity.More importantly, this resistance has the effect of rendering such figures opaque and image-like.An image that is visually striking but not wholly susceptible to verbal explanation.Their opacity gives them the quality of an unformulated image, an image that to some extent retards or actually interrupts the narrative flow with its non narrative effect.Kaspar is "outside of language and outside of difference," and later resists the patriarchal narrative with which he is equipped.Despite the pronounced literary subtext in these films, the dismissal of writing as a secondary mediation in contrast with the immediacy of the image occurs persistently in Herzog.The words of Kaspar's name spring up as the watercress he has planted, becoming living things in a triumphant romantic gesture that recalls Holderlin's longing, in BREAD AND WINE, for "words which spring up like flowers."By gestures such as these, Herzog has, in his view, redeemed language by transforming it first into a thing and then into an image.The lack of erotic impulse in Herzog's narratives is pronounced: the sexualized body is not of interest to Herzog and in his characters libidinal impulses tend to be sublimated into an all-consuming vision or to disappear into introit by some other means.Kaspar's enthusiasm for knitting that so shocks Lord Stanhope and in his general refusal to distinguish between male and female tasks.The black caped man who initiates Kaspar's entry into narrative, a symbolic father whose identity nevertheless remains enshrouded in mystery, resembles on one so much as Dr. Caligari in his black cape.As in some measure the "founding text" of German cinema and as an allegory per SE, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI would naturally speak to a filmmaker anxious to create a bridge between German films of the Weimar period and those of his own time.So the black caped father functions here as the symbolic father of German cinema as well.Within the overall narrative of the film, it is the Caligari figure who intervenes with violence at various junctures in order,it would appear, to be able to direct its course.This violence, in turn, generates in the imagination of Kaspar a succession of visionary images that, like Herzog's films, begin with landscapes.When, in one dream sequence, Kaspar creates a mythical landscape of the Caucasus, a landscape with golden temples for which there has been no equivalent in his experience, Kaspar is creating with natural signs, like Herzog in hoping to bring "the real" into his film-making.
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