Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Do you not then hear this horrible scream all around you that people usually call silence.

No 428 - Jeder für sich und Gott Gegen Alle (The Enigma of Kasper Hauser)
Director - Werner Herzog

The film begins with a brief piece of scrolling text telling us the story of the film. A figure appears in a village, he can't speak, write or read but over time he manages to tell them that his name is Kasper.
This is also the plot to the film as we follow Kasper's progress over several years and as he develops in his skills.

The people of the village become fascinated by him. They watch him continuously and the speak about him behind his back, desperate to know more about him. When he initially arrives, Kasper can barely walk. He is just standing there in the middle of town, clutching a note. He doesn't move for hours. He is eventually sent to the captain of the guards to deal with. However, during this time people are fascinated. At the same time, they don't trust him. He is just too odd and has filled them with questions. Is he real? Is he an act? Is he perhaps a spy? Where does he come from? How come he is so simple?
These are the questions that drive the characters of this film. They obsess over him, trying to qualify him with tests and experiments. But they are questions that the film itself ignores.

The film is more interested in how Kasper feels as he goes through this learning process. It is whilst adopted by a rich old man that he makes the most progress, and this is what the film dwells on. Kasper's attempts to understand life and find reason and meaning.
For this reason, any scene without Kasper in (and they are few and far between) lose the magic which the film has. This film hangs on the superb performance by Bruno S, his intense delivery of every line and the complete concentration on his face as he talks is a joy to behold. Really, it is difficult to try and write an explanation about why this film is good to watch. It is entirely down to the nuances of Bruno S' performance and the fabulous writing of Kasper's literal viewpoints.

Kasper's mind has trouble with abstract ideas of any kind. If an apple rolls away it has run off because it doesn't want to be eaten. If he turns his back on a tower it has vanished. Yet the people of the town wish to push logic questions onto him or push theological ideas onto him. They then get frustrated when Kasper doesn't understand the concept of God or when he defies the professor with an illogical answer to a purely logical question. His ideas are beautifully, naively, literal and the film relishes in following Kasper as he makes the discoveries which help develop his ideas.

When the film begins, we begin with a grunting slumped Kasper in a cell loudly chewing on bread. I thought it was going to be a horrible film. A difficult film to watch. However Kasper's development is a joy and the film highlights that joy. Which, considering none of the characters in the film highlight the joy, is an impressive feat.

Of course, the second that Kasper dies his brain is cut up so that the doctors and weird goblinny report writing man can record a reason for his behaviour. They find one. Something to do with over developed lobes and under developed hemispheres. But really, the viewer doesn't care about why. They just care about the life that was led.

A life which amazingly, seems to be true.

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