In his widely acclaimed attempt to fathom The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, director Werner Herzog probes a real-life mystery that has puzzled German society for nearly two centuries. In the title role, Herzog ingeniously cast the equally mysterious street musician Bruno S., whose mesmerizing performance is unique in the history of film. Isolated since infancy in a dank cellar, the now-adult Kaspar is abandoned in 1820s Nuremburg by his unknown custodian; townsfolk futilely speculate on his origins, and he's shaped by a bourgeois villager who places rigid, conflicting restraints on his new and peculiar perspective on the world around him. It's telling that Herzog's preferred title is Every Man for Himself and God Against All, for this is an eerily effective cautionary tale about an innocent man of nature who moves from one prison to another in a cruelly fateful universe. The mystery lingers, making The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser a deep, resonant reflection on the nature of humanity.
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