My trek through Herzog continues!
Written By: Werner Herzog & Jakob Wassermann
Directed By: Werner Herzog
It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads my little blog that I have become a major fan of Werner Herzog. The last film of his that I watched, Woyzeck, I considered a bit of a letdown compared to his other work. My faith in Herzog was not staggered for long, because Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle is a return to the form of Stroszek, Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes and Fitzcarraldo. This is also more of a return to the philosophical style that I usually associate with Herzog. Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle boasts a good surface story, the mystery of the man-child and all that he entails is more than enough to keep your interest. But, as the film flew by it dawned on me, probably far later than with most, that Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle is a statement on society.
Werner Herzog loves to question, and Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle questions our view of society, how society functions and whether or not society as it stands is a good thing. Questioning society isn’t new by a long shot, but the way that Herzog goes about questioning society is refreshing. He isn’t heavy handed in his tactic, instead he takes a coy and very sly approach. Herzog makes you believe that the story is all about the mystery of Kasper Hauser, and the modern cinema watcher in me immediately believed that Hauser progressing from his initial state meant this was on the path towards a “person overcomes disability” celebratory movie. Herzog has other ideas and uses Hauser’s enlightenment to challenge the accepted view on society. Instead of blasting our idea of society openly, he uses the template of a fresh mind unencumbered by years of societal accumulation.
I believe we view society based on how society has taught us over the years. Yes, we can rebel and change from the popular viewpoint and we often do. But, growing up the views of society are instilled in you and therefore you go along with them. If society tells you that homosexuality is wrong then it becomes wrong in your eyes. At some point you should, hopefully at least, come to the conclusion that this viewpoint is wrong and rebel from what society says. In Hauser, Herzog is presenting the ultimate rebel, someone so far off the beaten path of how society wants you to think that he confounds people at every turn. Hauser becomes Herzog’s instrument in asking us to question society. Why do women only cook and do chores? Why should I have blind faith in a God I can’t see? Too often we accept life as we know it, and Herzog is asking for you to think and come to your own conclusion. That may sound preachy, but it’s not, Herzog isn’t judging whatever decision you may come to, he’s simply imploring you to come to a decision on your own.
There are fine performances in Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle, but just as in Stroszek Bruno S. takes center stage over all other actors. To call his performance naturalist would be an understatement. Bruno was actually kept in a mental institution for most of his formative years, although Herzog claims he is not insane at all. Bruno isn’t an actor and you can see that in his performance. His timing is never perfect, his speech pattern is awkward and he seems in over his head at some points. But, the role of Kaspar Hauser required someone more natural. Someone who could look like they bit off more then they could chew, someone who looked and acted a bit funny and someone who could feel naturally challenged. Whether an actor or not, Bruno gives a tremendous performance in Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle.
Visually this is a very simple film, but it is meant to be simple. The only sequences that feel like they have the least bit of grandeur to them are Kasper’s dream sequences, and naturally those occur in the mind of someone not held in societies grasp. The same holds true for the music, and for the twists there are within the story. The story and setting of Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle is related in very plain fashion, because the questions raised are large enough on their own.
Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle marks yet another great film from Werner Herzog. I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record when I review one of his movies, but he has a knack of connecting with me every time. Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle isn’t his best, nor is it my favorite Herzog, but it is a powerful film. There are oddly comedic moments, a mysterious edge to the entire story and philosophical musings that should enlighten some and infuriate others. Get sucked in by the mystery, delight in Bruno and enjoy as the true depth of the picture unfolds before you.