(Every Man for Himself and God Against All; The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser)
West Germany, 1974
Director: Werner Herzog
Production: Werner Herzog Film-Product and ZDF (German television); Eastmancolor, 35mm; running time: 110 minutes. Released 1974.
Producer: Werner Herzog; screenplay: Werner Herzog; photography: Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein; editor: Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus; sound: Haymo Henry Heyder; production designer: Henning V. Gierke; music: Pachelbel, Orlandi di Lasso, Albinoni, and Mozart; costume designers: Gisela Storch and Ann Poppel.
Cast: Bruno S. ( Kaspar Hauser ); Walter Ladengast ( Daumer ); Brigitte Mira ( Kate, the Governess ); Hans Musaus ( The Stranger ); Willy Semmelrogge ( Circus Master ); Michael Kroecher ( Lord Stanhope ); Henry Van Lyck ( Captain of the Cavalry ); Enno Patalas ( Pastor Führmann ); Elis Pilgrim ( Pastor ); Volker Prechtel ( Hiltel, Prison guard ); Kidlat Tahmik ( Hombrecito, the Indian ); Gloria Doer ( Madame Hiltel ); Helmut Doring ( Little King ); Andi Gottwald ( Young Mozart ); Herbert Achternbusch ( Farmboy ); Wolfgang Bauer ( Farmboy ); Walter Steiner ( Farmboy ); Florian Fricke ( Monsieur Florian ); Clemens Scheitz ( Registrar ); Johannes Buzalski ( Police officer ); Dr. Willy Meyer-Furst ( Doctor ); Wilhelm Bayer ( Captain of the Cavalry, domestic ); Franz Brumbach ( Bear trainer ); Alfred Edel ( Professor of Logic ); Heribert Fritsch ( Mayor ); Peter Gebhart ( Shoemaker who discovers Kaspar ); Reinhard Hauff ( Farmer ); Dorothea Kraft ( Little Girl ); Markus Weller ( Julius, son of Hiltel ); Dr. Heinz H. Niemoller ( Pathologist ); Dr. Walter Pflaum ( Pathologist ); Otto Heinzle ( Old Priest ); Peter-Udo Schonborn ( Swordsman ).
Awards: Cannes Film Festival, Special Jury Prize, the International Critics' Award, and the Ecumenical Prize, 1975.
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* * *
In many countries Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Every Man for Himself and God Against All ) is distributed under the title Kaspar Hauser —the name of the hero of this film based on the history of a man who in 1828 was found by chance living in a dark cave where he had apparently grown up without any contact with other human beings. Brought to civilization, he experiences many of the events of ordinary life, all of which make him feel equally uneasy.
Werner Herzog, the director, unlike François Truffaut in The Wild Child , is not interested in showing the painful process of adaptation to civilized surroundings; Kaspar has a special consciousness in which the laws of nature have a central place and in which the conventions and norms of civilized behavior are as artificial and inconvenient to him as the black dinner jacket he is forced to wear. His difficulties in communication are not the result of any linguistic inadequacies; simply, he is "different" from other men. That is why Herzog seems to wish to persuade us that, despite being gratuitous, both the early isolation and the surprising death of his hero are somehow logical.
An examination of Herzog's earlier films suggests that he always moves within the same closed circle of his imagination. All of his heroes are in some way related. The deaf-mutes in Land of Silence and Darkness , the dwarfs in Even Dwarfs Started Small or the half-crazy conquistador in Aguirre, the Wrath of God —like Kaspar Hauser—are outsiders, unable to adapt, creatures who have no place in human society.
His later films, if anything, stress this similarity of characters and continuity of motifs. In Stroszek the main characters from Kaspar Hauser reappear but in another historical context—that of our own time. Stroszek—played by Bruno S., the same Berlin hobo who played Kaspar—and his two companions, the old man (Clemens Scheitz) and the girl (Eva Mattes), can no longer find a "place" in their native Germany, so they emigrate to America, where they also fail. This would be the fate of Kaspar Hauser today. Aguirre, the greedy colonist, appears again in Fitzcarraldo —a corrective to the pessimistic conclusion of Aguirre . The wisdom and integrity of the Indians have profound effect on the conqueror, and he comes to see his confrontation with the jungle and the natives as a blessing that saves him from the abyss.
This summary of plot sounds like a fairy tale—and it is. Most of Herzog's films recall fables, and that is surely one of the reasons for their success. There is a kind of magical charm in the way that Herzog composes his shots: these films contain much natural beauty and slow rhythm that evokes splendor and transcience.
When one speaks of Herzog, one speaks of "mystical cinema, transcendent, an idealistic vision of reality." The film Kaspar Hauser is an example of a kind of narration in which realistically-realized shots are perceived as a perfect, even though unrealistic, fiction.