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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 has a way with documenting history as if it was our own past we were re-living. It all seems strangely familiar, yet slightly surreal. This film is rich with detail of the period (19th century), yet it's not the slightest bit in-your-face like so many of the current period films that seem to be about nothing more than lush furniture and the people who sit on them. Yet there are images here that you'll never forget! There are some especially stunning sepia dream sequences of an Arabian caravan strolling in soft, slow-motion across a windswept desert. They reminded me of Sam Fuller's effective use of raw colour footage of distant lands in "Shock Corridor". Images that seem to burst out at us from the B&W angst of a mental ward. Such contradictory images seem perfectly normal in Herzog's world, since after all, they're from the world of our dreams.
As always, Herzog finds great music for his score in this film, and he uses it in a very subtle way. But he also is a master at allowing silences to tell part of his story. If one is really listening, they can hear a great many things that define the world that his characters are inhabiting. This of course, was more obvious in films like 'Aguirre', where one swears they can still hear the wild birds squawking in their head for days! Can any film-going experience be more real?
But this film is not all just sound and imagery! The story is a puzzle. It's up to us viewers to decide who this man is and how his mind functions. It also challenges us to think about how our own minds function. While various "instructors" try to cram a lifetime of education into Kaspar's brain in just a few short years, we are forced to re-evaluate the logic that we have been taught. This is illustrated with great tongue-in-cheek humour when Kaspar approaches a lesson in logic with a Zen-like understanding that leaves his instructors livid. Needless to say, this film is a good preamble to "Being There", only more subtle, more haunting, and far more memorable.
The film will also bring to mind "The Elephant Man", not just in its depiction of circus "freaks", but in its illustrations of cruelty, madness, kindness and alienation. It is in essence, a movie about humanity. Told in a poetic vision with just the right doses of wit, intelligence and mystery. For this is, The MYSTERY of Kaspar Hauser. The film never pretends to be a documentation. It is simply an interpretation. One man's imagining of what might have gone inside the mind of a man who was born into the world at sixteen. See it with that in mind, and you'll have one of the richest movie-going experiences in your life!
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