Kept in a basement well into his adult years, Kaspar Hauser never learned to communicate - he never met another soul save for his keeper. Unexpectedly released one day, Hauser is introduced into a village that does not know him. Over the next few years, Hauser learns to speak, to think, and engages in society in a totally unexpected and original manner. Not taught to accept, he naturally questions, and Hauser is immediately a controversial figure.
Watching Werner Herzog's The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, I kept thinking about the way that society tried to pin him down. They wrote him off as a potential criminal, a lunatic, a could-be threat, an idiot, an overgrown child – all because he remained to them an enigma, something that couldn’t be pinned down with words and classifications, and that scared them. Kept in that basement for years with bread, water, and a toy horse, Hauser had nothing to question for he knew no else; even the difference between an empty cup and one filled he does not learn until he is abandoned/liberated. Between abandonment and liberation there is no difference, for they serve the same purpose to Hauser: self-reliance. Confronted with the never-ending possibilities of life, Hauser begins to learn unaffectedly. His logic is his own, as it should be; his rationale doesn’t fit with the intelligentsia. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser is Werner Herzog’s declaration of non-conformity. Even though Hauser’s attire changes through the film, he always resists the uniform; resists the definition; resists accuracy. As Herzog said in his latest project Grizzly Man, “The natural order of the world is chaos.”
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.