Friday, February 12, 2016

The Story of Kaspar Hauser

From Reid's Reader: 
Yet the (romanticised) version of Kaspar’s story has inspired many capable writers. Stories of wild – perhaps feral – children hold a fascination for those who want to speculate on how the human mind would develop without conventional forms of socialisation. My first encounter with the Kaspar Hauser story was when I saw, nearly 40 years ago, Werner Herzog’s excellent film released in English as The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. Its original German title was Jeder fur sich und Gott gegen alle [Every man for himself and God against everybody]. It was made in 1974. It did not attempt to “solve” the “mystery” of Kaspar’s background, but used Kaspar as a case study in a radically innocent mind, never socialised, and encountering the strangeness of the world for the first time. Herzog cast in the leading role an actor billed as “Bruno S.” (real name – Bruno Schleinstein) who had a history of mental illness and who played Kaspar as a sort of overgrown autistic child. Even if it was (probably) a complete fiction, it was a very interesting reflection on what an unsocialised mind in an adult body could be like.  It bore many comparisons with one of Francois Truffaut’s best films, L’Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child), made in 1970 and dramatising the historical case of a doctor trying to educate a feral child.

As a legend, then, rather than as an historical fact, Kaspar Hauser has become an interesting figure in European culture and literature, with many poems, novels and plays written about him. (Read more.)

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