“It seems to me that my coming into this world was a very hard fall.”
A mysterious young man (Bruno S.) named Kaspar Hauser arrives in a German village in 1828, where he’s cared for by a kind professor (Walter Ladengast) who teaches him to read, write, and play music.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Widely regarded by many (including Peary) as one of Werner Herzog’s “most compelling films”, The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser is in the “same subgenre as The Wild Child and The Elephant Man” yet “completely different from those pictures.” As Peary notes, Herzog wisely refrains from positing the real-life Hauser as either a saint (a la the Elephant Man) or a Tarzan-figure (a la Truffaut’s “wild child”), instead portraying him simply as “an outsider, a naturalist, whose presence causes everyone to question their orderly vision of their world, their faith in God, [and] their orderly way of leading their lives.” The inspired casting of non-actor Bruno S. (a former mental institute inmate) as Hauser plays a key role in the film’s success — it’s remarkably easy to believe that Bruno is Kaspar, with his cynical yet child-like attitude marking him as one who is truly seeing life in a unique way. Several of his statements — such as when he remarks with sadness to Ladengast that hearing music “feels strong in his heart”, and wonders aloud why he can’t play piano with automaticity, the way he breathes — are heartbreaking in their naive wisdom.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bruno S. as Kaspar Hauser
- Walter Ladengast as Hauser’s kindly caretaker, Professor Daumer
- Kaspar trying to teach a cat to walk on its hind legs
- Beautiful cinematography of German countryside
Yes, as the film which propelled Werner Herzog to international prominence.