Kaspar Hauser is a boy who grew up with little human contact in Germany during the early 1800s. Without the ability to speak, walk, or eat, he’s delivered by a mysteriously cloaked man, at the age of 17, to a resident of the city of Nuremberg. The film chronicles Kaspar’s growth as he is trained in language, etiquette, music, and religion.
Kaspar is a savage, but in his earnest attempts to wrangle the concepts we often take for granted, we are made painfully aware of the many ludicrous assumptions at the heart of collective human behavior. By contrasting images of both wild beasts and those made captive, Herzog speaks to the nature of man, and his transition from the beastly — that thing we might be tempted to think of as an ascension. Herzog’s narrative is both sad and silly, which provides the necessary momentum to muddle through Kaspar’s constant exploitation and reconditioning.
Ultimately, when we explain away Kaspar’s reluctance to conform as a neurological condition, we exhibit the highest kind of human absurdity: ignorance of our own.
- The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Herzog 1974) @ Red Vic