The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (German: Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle; lit. Every Man for Himself and God Against All) is a 1974 West German drama film written and directed by Werner Herzog and starring Bruno Schleinstein (credited as Bruno S.) and Walter Ladengast.[2] The film closely follows the real story of foundling Kaspar Hauser, using the text of actual letters found with Hauser.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
DVD cover
Directed byWerner Herzog
Produced byWerner Herzog
Written byWerner Herzog
Music byFlorian Fricke
CinematographyJörg Schmidt-Reitwein
Edited byBeate Mainka-Jellinghaus
Distributed byWerner Herzog Filmproduktion
Release date
  • 1 November 1974 (1974-11-01)
Running time
109 minutes[1]
CountryWest Germany
  • German
  • English


The film follows Kaspar Hauser, who lived the first seventeen years of his life chained in a tiny cellar with only a toy horse to occupy his time, devoid of all human contact except for a man, wearing a black overcoat and top hat, who feeds him.

One day, in 1828, the same man takes Hauser out of his cell, teaches him a few phrases, and how to walk, before leaving him in the town of Nuremberg. Hauser becomes the subject of much curiosity, and is exhibited in a circus before being rescued by Professor Georg Friedrich Daumer, who patiently attempts to transform him.

Hauser soon learns to read and write, and develops unorthodox approaches to logic and religion; but music is what pleases him most. He attracts the attention of academics, clergy and nobility. He is then physically attacked by the same unknown man who brought him to Nuremberg. The attack leaves him unconscious with a bleeding head. He recovers, but is again mysteriously attacked; this time, stabbed in the chest.

Hauser rests in bed describing visions he has had of nomadic Berbers in the Sahara Desert, and then dies. An autopsy reveals an enlarged liver and cerebellum.


The casting and character names are based on the submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.[3]



Herzog has been quoted as saying that the title (German: Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle) for the film was inspired by a sentence in the novel Macunaíma by Brazilian writer Mário de Andrade.[6]

The film follows the real story of Kaspar Hauser quite closely, using the text of actual letters found with Hauser, and following many details in the opening sequence of Hauser's confinement and release. The characters of Professor Daumer and of Lord Stanhope are also based on historical figures, Georg Friedrich Daumer and Philip Henry Stanhope, 4th Earl Stanhope, respectively.

An English-language translation of the screenplay was published in 1980.[7]

Casting and crew

Herzog discovered the lead actor, Bruno Schleinstein, in a documentary about street musicians Bruno der Schwarze, es blies ein Jäger wohl in sein Horn (lit. Bruno the Black One, A Hunter Blows his Horn).[8] Fascinated, Herzog cast him as the lead for The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser despite the fact that he had no training as an actor. Further, the historical Hauser was 17 when he was discovered in Nuremberg and the film implies this. Schleinstein was 41 years old at the time of filming, although his character is treated and described throughout as a youth. Schleinstein's own life bore some similarities to Kaspar Hauser's, and his own unbalanced personality was often expressed on set. In Herzog's commentary for the English language DVD release, he recalls that Schleinstein remained in costume for the entire duration of the production, even after shooting was done for the day. Herzog once visited him in his hotel room, to find him sleeping on the floor by the door, in his costume.[9] Schleinstein was credited only as "Bruno S." in the film. Herzog subsequently wrote Schleinstein into the screenplay for a second film, Stroszek (1977).

The Production Designer for the film was Henning Von Gierke; the Costume Designers were Ann Poppel and Gisela Storch.[2]

Filming locations

The outdoor scenes were filmed in the town of Dinkelsbühl and on a nearby mountain called Hesselberg.


The music of several classical composers is featured in the film's soundtrack, including pieces by Johann Pachelbel, Orlande de Lassus, Tomaso Albinoni, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Critical response

In 2005, critic Walter Chaw summed up the film as "a strange, brave performance housed in an anti-linear film stuffed with obscure images and silent passages of profound, frightening insight", adding "That the director identifies so deeply with a foundling in 19th century Germany who appeared in the middle of a town square having spent his whole life chained to a floor in a basement dungeon speaks volumes to Herzog's feeling of detachment in intellectual, artistic, and social environments."[10] In 2007, the critic Roger Ebert wrote a retrospective review of the film, which he had included in his list of "Great Movies", saying "In Herzog the line between fact and fiction is a shifting one. He cares not for accuracy but for effect, for a transcendent ecstasy."[11]

Writing in 2001, Maria Racheva said ".. 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. ... 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."[4]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 95% score based on 21 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10.[12]


The film was invited for the 1975 Cannes Film Festival. It won the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury, which is the second prize for films "in competition" at the festival; the first is the Palme d'Or. In addition, it won the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.[13][14] The film won two German Film Awards: to Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus for editing, and to Henning von Gierke for scene design. Herzog won the second prize (Filmband in Silber) in the category "Feature Film Direction" (programmfüllender Spielfilm (Gestaltung)), which came with a substantial cash prize.[15] The film was selected as the West German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 48th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nomination.[16]

Home media

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser was released to region 1 DVD in 2002.[9] The film is included in a Blu-ray (region-A) collection of Herzog's films that was published in the US in 2014.[17] It was also included in a region-B collection published in the United Kingdom in 2014.[18] It had been released in 1993 as a VHS tape with the English language title The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser.[19]

See also


    1. "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (A)". British Board of Film Classification. 10 November 1975. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
    2. "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
    3. "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser". Index to Motion Picture Credits. Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
    4. Racheva, Maria (2001). "Jeder Für Sich und Gott Gegen Alle". In Pendergast, Tom; Pendergast, Sara (eds.). International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers (4 ed.). OCLC 44818539. This article contains an extensive bibliography related to the film.
    5. "Full cast and crew for The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
    6. Naqib, Lucia (2012). "Physicality, Difference, and the Challenge of Representation". In Prager, Brad (ed.). A Companion to Werner Herzog. John Wiley & Sons. p. 68. ISBN 9781444361407.
    7. Herzog, Werner (1980). Screenplays: 'Aguirre: The Wrath of God' 'Every man for himself and God against all' 'Land of silence and darkness'. Alan Greenberg and Martje Herzog (translation). Tanam Press. ISBN 9780934378031. OCLC 7123108.
    8. Fountain, Clarke. "Bruno der Schwarze: Es blies ein Jäger wohl in sein Horn (1971)". This unusually realistic award-winning German film examines the life of Bruno, an outcast from society.
    9. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (DVD). Anchor Bay. 8 January 2002. OCLC 230755010.
    10. Chaw, Walter (5 April 2005). "Herzog of DVD: the 70s". Film Freak Central. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. The irony of the piece, in and out, is that as Kaspar gradually becomes more articulate and less of an "enigma," the intense curiosity about him and his "creation" almost certainly leads to his downfall. Embedded therein is the idea that a dissection of art leads, inevitably, to the deconstruction of what is, at its essence, ineffable and indefinable. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser is a strange, brave performance housed in an anti-linear film stuffed with obscure images and silent passages of profound, frightening insight.
    11. Ebert, Roger (17 November 2007). "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser". Retrieved 7 April 2019.
    12. "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle) (Every Man for Himself and God Against All) (1974)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
    13. "Festival de Cannes: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser". Retrieved 17 September 2009.
    14. Golden Palm Awards for 1975 at
    15. "Deutscher Filmpreis 1975" (in German). Retrieved 11 January 2016. The cash prize for programmfüllender Spielfilm (Gestaltung) was 150,000 Deutsche Marks.
    16. Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
    17. Herzog: The Collection - LImited Edition (Blu-ray). The Shout Factory. 29 July 2014.
    18. The Werner Herzog Collection (Blu-ray). BFI. 25 August 2014.
    19. The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser (VHS). New Yorker Video. 1993. ISBN 9781567300710. OCLC 30346055.

    Further reading

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