This year a young man came out of the forest and presented himself at a police station in Germany, claiming or pretending to be a homeless waif (or a bear with very little brain. or whatever); he turned out to be Dutch, if I remember rightly, running away from home.
This was reminiscent of an incident that took place two centuries ago. For our Collesseum video movie this month we showed a highly rated German movie that has been waiting on the shelf for several years.
For those of us who love puzzles, this is a treat. My son Michael gave me the video disc, which has a label identifying it on the box, but locating it in the film guides is a long search.
In the Time Out Film Guide (Penguin) it is found under its original weird title: JEDER FÜR SICH UND GOTT GEGEN ALLE.
Leonard Maltin has it in English: EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF AND GOD AGAINST ALL (with his highest rating ****).
Halliwell has: THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER (**** in a system that mostly awards one star or none). This was the title given to its English version, with the German title (in translation) as a subsidiary title.
Yes, Kaspar Hauser is the name you should put into your searcher.
He appeared out of nowhere in the town-square of Nürnberg/ Nuremberg in 1828; he was possibly born into a princely family in 1812; maybe even a child of Napoleon; he died of a stab-wound, perhaps by his own hand, in 1833.
His tombstone has this Latin inscription: HIC JACET CASPARUS HAUSER, AENIGMA SUI TEMPORIS, IGNOTA NAVITAS, OCCULTA MORS.
He was thus "the enigma of his time, birth unknown, death mysterious".
The film is considered to be Werner Herzog's best piece of work (do not be afraid, Klaus Kinski is not in it, though the wrath of God is ever lurking): "a sorrowing, darkly comic meditation on the pitfalls of 'civilization' and the way education destroys man's innocence" (Time Out, 2007, p. 607c).
The leading role was played brilliantly by a man who (like Judy Garland) needed a lot of encouragement to get the self-esteem going on the set. He is listed as Bruno S. (yes!). An internet quest will unveil him as Bruno Schleinstein (1932-2010; Jewish?), a performing music-man who came out of a terrible childhood. He was aged forty-one when he played the adolescent Kaspar.
The composers in the musical soundtrack are classical, starting with Mozart and his Magic Flute. But the Albinoni piece is not genuine; it was foisted on the 20th century by a modern Italian musician.
This is not to be confused with KASPAR HAUSER (1993) also German, in which Kaspar is a pawn in a political power game. The rumour that he was a scion of the royal family of Baden is accepted here, but DNA comparison has falsified this idea.
Michael Colless also gave me a play entitled KASPAR, by Peter Handke (1967), English translation 1969, seeking which (in the vast library that is my home) has occupied me frequently during the writing of this essay; I found it in the literature section (in the garage, among the books belonging mainly to my daughter Laurel) under K! (I had better mention the third sibling also: Nigel is an educational psychologist, and this would certainly be of interest to him.)
"Handke's play is a downright attack on the way language is used by a corrupt society to depersonalize the individual” (Michael Billington, Guardian).
Werner Herzog's film is in German, with English subtitles, 1975, 110m, colour. The running commentary by the man himself is illuminating and engaging; he points out his mother in the audience of the circus side-show scene, where Kaspar is set before the public as an oddity (or a freak, like the elephant man).