The inimitable Werner Herzog made the fourth of his eight NYFF appearances with this strange and haunting drama inspired by the case of Kaspar Hauser, a real-life “wild child” who appeared as a teenager in the streets of Nuremberg claiming to have been raised since infancy in a small dark cell, divorced from all contact with the outside world. Sparking the curiosity of a compassionate schoolmaster, who attempts to civilize this strange creature, Kaspar soon becomes a cause célèbre of the local clergy, academy and high-society elites, before meeting an end as abrupt and mysterious as his beginnings. Built around a hypnotic central performance by the late Bruno S., a street performer who had spent much of his life in a mental institution, The Enigma of Kaspar Huaser is no ordinary bio-pic, but an unforgettable, dreamlike meditation on the nature of civilization and the fine line between sanity and madness.
“The director’s most accessible, and most moving film, and Bruno S. does more than ‘play’ Kaspar; he mysteriously embodies the spirit of a manchild in a threatening land.”<br />—NYFF13 program note
“The droll, zestful, looming work of a filmmaker still on the prowl, making an exploratory work each time out. The work of a self-propelled artist who’ll never give up, the movie uses the Kasper Huaser mystery, ‘the sole known case in human history in which a man was born as an adult,’ to take you into an anti-rational as well as irrational movie area previously inhabited by Buñuel, Franju, and Browning…With its unpredictable joins, off-kilter shots, it’s a lyrical affirmation that resonates one main idea in the mind: the beauty and loss involved in adjusting society.”
—Manny Farber & Patricia Patterson, Film Comment