Monday, March 12, 2012

92) The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)

92) The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) Dir: Werner Herzog Date Released: October XX, 1975 Date Seen: March 8, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

Generally speaking, I'm still feeling my way around Herzog's early body of work (teeheehee). I mainly know his more recent movies, of which I'm most partial to Rescue Dawn and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I'm a neophyte when it comes to Herzog's filmography though. I have yet to find the picture that will really break open his filmography for me. I'm looking for his Irma Vep, basically. And granted, I haven't seen Aguirre, Fitzcaraldo, Nosferatu the Vampyre (which I own!) or others. But hey, I'm working on it. 

Case in point: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser was pretty impressive. I'd initially read about Hauser in Paul Auster's New York Stories. And I'd heard that Vincent Gallo is in a new Italian version of Hauser's story...starring as his own doppelganger...and that it's shot in black-and-white...and there's a UFO, too?!

Anyway, this teaser prompted me to watch Enigma, which has been stuck in the bowels of my Netflix queue for a while now. I quite liked it.

What, you want more than that succinct and totally accurate summary? Sure, ok, fine. 

While Herzog's clearly champing at the bit to make a terror-stricken Hauser /the/ emblematic individual that gets persecuted by a thuggish smaller society simply because he's different, that's probably not what impressed me about Enigma. What did it for me was A) Bruno Schleinstein's performance, which clearly came from a strange and tortured place* and B) some of the film's barely subdued dream-like elements. I especially think the latter impressed me. Because generally speaking, Enigma is a sleepy film. 

Ok, now I really got some 'splainin' to do, huh? Though I could be wrong and the prison scenes could in fact have a louder scene, I feel like the loudest confrontation in the film was Kaspar's conversation with a logician, a pedantic academic that comically elaborates a logic puzzle that he then incorrectly solves. The logician says that an inhabitant of a town of liars will reveal himself by speaking using a double negative...which don't make no sense, man.

 But when Kaspar poses a similar question that he thinks will delineate who represents a town of liars and who represents a town of truth-tellers, he follows the logician's lead and poses an equally inane question. It's exactly the same kind of question, too, but the logician gets mad and insists that Kaspar doesn't get the exercise. The scene's take-away is: if Kaspar were to have implicitly trusted this man, which he seems incapable of doing for most other members of the Nuremberg townsfolk, he would have repeated the mistake of this so-called expert.  

But basically: an uptight, over-educated guy yells at a severely autistic guy and it's a sign that society in general is intolerant. This works for me because, as is sort of my watchword, context is key. Herzog's Nuremberg is inhabited by quietly exploitative and meekly sadistic people. Enigma isn't really one of a number of films that woefully try to impress us with the banality of evil however. Instead, it's a story where people that are reactively afraid of change decide to imprison a stranger, sell him to a traveling circus to help pay off their communal debt and then try to re-integrate him back into society when they think that they can impress a dandy-ish aristocrat. The Nurembergers will sell Kaspar out between household chores and afternoon tea simply because they don't have the ethical skill set to reason: 'Hey, that's fucked up. Maybe we shouldn't be doing that.'

So yeah, that I like.

*Note: I just read that this guy was actually deaf? And a pain on the set because he would, like, scream a lot? Or something?

No comments:

Post a Comment