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The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser PG rating

Werner Herzog’s poetic account of the historical character who captivated 19th-century Nuremberg after emerging from isolation after 16 years in a cellar.

Biopic 1974 109 mins

Director: Werner Herzog


Though it deals with events in the carefully documented life of a near-legendary historical character, this remains one of the most eloquent and emotionally affecting expressions of Werner Herzog’s distinctive world view. It’s by far the finest of the various films made about the young man who in 1828 appeared out of the blue in Nuremberg, clutching a note claiming his name was Kaspar; barely able to walk or talk, and willing to eat only bread and water, he became a figure of fame and controversy among doctors, scientists and educationalists of the day.

Wisely, Herzog avoids speculating about his still mysterious origins and fate, choosing instead to focus on the encounter between Kaspar - an innocent at the mercy of a society too sure of itself - and the well-meaning but blinkered rationalists determined to shape his character and his new life. Bruno S., himself something of an outcast, plays Kaspar to perfection, while Herzog brings a delicate lyricism and true sensitivity to his account of purity imperilled by contact with ‘civilisation’. Arguably his warmest and most poignant feature, it feels as fresh as it did when first released. (Geoff Andrew)