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The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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(Jan 08, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser - The true and mysterious story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who suddenly appeared in Nuremberg in 1828. He had been held captive in a dungeon for his entire life that he could remember, and had only just been released, for reasons unknown. Who is this man, and who would want him dead?

In his widely acclaimed attempt to fathom The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, director Werner Herzog probes a real-life mystery that has puzzled German society for nearly two centuries. In the title role, Herzog ingeniously cast the equally mysterious street musician Bruno S., whose mesmerizing performance is unique in the history of film. Isolated since infancy in a dank cellar, the now-adult Kaspar is abandoned in 1820s Nuremburg by his unknown custodian; townsfolk futilely speculate on his origins, and he's shaped by a bourgeois villager who places rigid, conflicting restraints on his new and peculiar perspective on the world around him. It's telling that Herzog's preferred title is Every Man for Himself and God Against All, for this is an eerily effective cautionary tale about an innocent man of nature who moves from one prison to another in a cruelly fateful universe. The mystery lingers, making The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser a deep, resonant reflection on the nature of humanity. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • Werner Herzog Bio

Product Details

  • Actors: Bruno S., Walter Ladengast, Brigitte Mira, Willy Semmelrogge, Michael Kroecher
  • Directors: Werner Herzog
  • Writers: Werner Herzog, Jakob Wassermann
  • Producers: Werner Herzog
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: January 8, 2002
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005R248
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,154 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Sprague on January 27, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In this film, Werner Herzog uses the real life enigmatic character of Kasper Hauser to ask such questions as, "Who are we?", "How do we learn?" and "What is it to be human?" Questions of such singular importance that neither science, logic or religious dogma can offer adequate answers. Great truths are felt rather than analyzed and by fleshing out the very humanness of Kasper through the incredible performance of Bruno S., we gain such a sense of right and wrong that societal convention seems out of balance and perverse. In the end we get the feeling that we can only learn anything from Kasper because he looks at the world without prejudice or preconceived notions of right and wrong. The film begins with the following written introduction: "One Sunday in 1828 a ragged boy was found in the town of N. He could hardly walk and spoke but one sentence. Later he told of being locked in a dark cellar from birth. He had never seen a human being, a tree, a house before. To this day on one knows where he came from - or who set him free." Kasper becomes for "civilized" society an experiment in humanity. The only problem is that he does not respond in expected ways, therefore, there must be something wrong with him - some scientifically explainable flaw! But through beautiful effective images we experience Kaspers humanity; the childlike joy he experiences while feeding a baby bird; tears of confusion pouring down his face after getting stung by a candle flame at the hands of those who know better; the tenderness he exhibits with an infant child. As Kasper is introduced to "high" society, essentially as a freakish novelty that can be molded into conformity through "education", it is not he who is the real freak show, but those who seem to be ashamed of their own attachment to nature. Suddenly Kasper is the only non-freak in the film! Herzog seems to have learned much from the story of Kasper Hauser and has created a beautiful testament to that spirit with this film.
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Format: DVD
Not only is The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser Werner Herzog's best film but it is without question one of the 5 greatest films of all time. This movie has some of the most astonishing and powerful images ever committed to film. One of the opening shot's is that of a wheat field blowing in the wind while Pachelbel's Cannon plays and the following words appear on the screen; "Don't you hear that horrible screaming all around you? That screaming men call silence." This sequence perfectly captures the essence of this film. The beauty of suffering seen through the eyes of a man that is completing untainted and untouched by society. This movie will change your life. This movie has amazing cinematography, a genius use of music, astonishing performances and Werner Herzog's direction is unbelievable.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Caspar Hauser, the enigma of a century is the true account of one early 19th century foundling, Kaspar Hauser, who was locked and shackled in a dungeon from birth, only to be freed and exposed to society after 17 years in isolation (save for the lone keeper who fed and abused him). To add to his tragic circumstance, he was murdered almost as mysteriously as he was confined.

What makes The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser so compelling is not so much this man's biography. Rather it is Werner Herzog's exploration of the individual's role in society, especially when he has a personal history like Kaspar Hauser. Herzog looks at what would happen to such a person were he to interact with ordinary villagers, children, bureaucrats, clergymen, scientists and educators.

We discover over the course of the film that his perceptions would be different from their own. As he learns to walk, develop language skills, process logic, interpret dreams, understand the concept of God and perform piano solos, we realise what constitutes normalcy and civility according to society. We see man's incessant need to analyse, to explain, to classify and to codify that which is seemingly different than himself. More importantly, we see how individuality is broken and conformity becomes the norm. Not that all men are such cruel and intolerable ogres, Herzog lets us also see the tenderness and kindness humanity possesses.

Herzog's symbolism is quite subtle too. The abrupt cut to a still photograph and silence at the beginning is reflective of Kaspar Hauser's life.
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First, the original title of this film is *not* The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. It's Every Man For Himself And God Against All. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser - also The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser - are America-only titles. That really doesn't detract from anything, but if you're ever looking for information on the film, you might want to know.
This is a great dvd, with a mildly informative biography of Herzog and (yay!) commentary from him.
The commentary is very worth listening to - more informative, I think, than the Criterion version's film essay would have been in this case. Herzog is a very interesting man with a very storied past, and this commentary explores that. Norman Hill - who shares the English track - seems to have been put there for the sole purpose of prompting Herzog into speech and gets grating after a while.
The movie itself is also wonderful - even if it feels at times to be missing Klaus Kinski, Herzog's lifelong friend and actor. This is due mainly to the way that Kaspar Hauser shares the feel of Herzog's more famous work, Aguirre - The Wrath of God. Many of the shots are the same: foggy landscapes shot through multiple lenses to disassociate the viewer from them, images of isolation on the water, and, of course, the controlled manner of speech which Bruno S. adopts for the film. There's even a moment where Bruno steps out in front of the camera in the very same fashion that Kinski invented for Aguirre.
A very worthwhile DVD, my only problem comes with the subtitles. While they seem (mostly - Herzog comments on one or two moments) to be adequate translations, they are at times unreadable. I'm not sure how escapable that is given that this is a colour film, but it seems Criterion have done an ample job on similar works. Cries and Whispers comes to mind. That one flaw, however, is minor and should in no way detract you from purchasing.
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