Discover This: The Legend of Kaspar Hauser

Copyright: Filmperlen

His body seems dead and his limbs are motionless as the waves of the ocean wash him up the shores of an unknown island. He is wearing sneakers and Adidas pants, his hair is fashionably shaved at the sides and dyed platinum blonde. On his slim chest his name is tattooed in bold black latters: KASPAR HAUSER. It’s the year zero and once in a while UFOs pierce through the blue sky, which isn’t blue because it’s filmed in black and white.

The island that at one point in the film is said to be none and is populated by a handful of people, all of which seem to have distinct functions that never become fully clear. There is the melancholic whore and the extravagant duchess, “the pusher” and the sheriff, the priest and a few servants of sorts. Kaspar Hauser is stranded in a no-man’s-land that is out of time and out of place, a coastal village that seems to be abandoned yet strangely alive. Most people speak Italian, but the sheriff on the other hand speaks English with a thick Texan accent as he duels himself in the mirror or duels the pusher in a dance contest, before giving himself an injection with a particularly large syringe.

Copyright: Filmperlen
Copyright: Filmperlen

Kaspar Hauser, whose legend the film claims to retell, is an alien amongst aliens, a techno child of the late 1990s/ early 2000s that learns to live and become human through electronic music. It’s the powerful and very dominantly used techno beats of French club legend Pascal Arbez-Nicolas, aka Vitalic, that Hauser gets addicted to when he learns to DJ at the beach.

This all seems pretty weird to you? Trust me, it is and there’s no use in trying to retell the story of Kaspar Hauser in detail because what you get to see here works better as a experimental performance than as a conventional narrative film.

The camerawork by Tarek Ben Abdallah often captures the strange people and their even stranger behaviour in wide shots and creates beautifully composed frames that become the theatrical stage for the outlaws and outsiders in their indefinable costumes that range from hippie to punk to slutty.

Copyright: Filmperlen
Copyright: Filmperlen

Little by little, Kaspar Hauser (played by performer/actress Silvia Calderoni in her film debut) learns to use his body and learns to juggle, dance, sing, and speak. The more autonomous this beautifully androgynous and highly energetic creature becomes, the more he poses a threat to the community. He is presented like a circus attraction but seems more and more unwilling to do what others tell him. Hauser is queer and a rebellious riot girl, a Pipi Longstockings and a party monster, a gender-bending canon let loose on a freak show that doesn’t want to embrace him as one of their own. Denounced as a traitor, fate is against Hauser. But thank God: there is music in heaven.

Copyright: Filmperlen
Copyright: Filmperlen

The enigmatic universe of Kaspar Hauser unfolds in often long and motionless shots in which people dance or have meaningful conversations that seem improvised and which add a good portion of humour to the experimental magic of the film. This is especially true of Vincent Gallo, who plays the parts of both the pusher and the sheriff and comes up with downright hilarious monologues when he mumbles on about the new inhabitant of the island.

The entire film is a pretty hip exercise in style, but never takes itself too seriously and therefore never becomes annoying. The strict aesthetic order of the images and their choreography often contradict the chaotic and spontaneous acting performances that are not only extremely fun to watch but also a nice statement on low-budget independent filmmaking: making it pretty, but keeping it wild – just like the boy that gets stranded on the beach that day. Wonderful!

Watch the teaser: Here!

Watch the German trailer (subtitled): Here!

La leggenda di Kaspar Hauser (The Legend of Kaspar Hauser), Italy 2012, 95 min.

director: Davide Manuli, cinematography: Tarek Ben Abdallah, actors: Vincent Gallo, Claudia Gerini, Elisa Sednaoui, Silvia Calderoni, Fabrizio Gifuni, Marco Lampis, languages: Italian/ English, distributor: Filmperlen

Berlin screenings (all Italian/English with German subtitles): Sputnik, Eiszeit, Brotfabrik, b-ware ladenkino, Babylon Mitte

Discover This! is a weekly Berlin–based film comment.


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  1. De Nardi on


    A Terrible Idea, frankly.

    1. Toby Ashraf on


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