Review: Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen (Even Dwarfs Started Small, 1970)


Madness, madness everywhere!

Written By: Werner Herzog
Directed By: Werner Herzog

In the realm of abstract Werner Herzog movies Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen is in a class all by itself. Unlike later works, such as Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes, Herzog doesn’t feel the need to bother with anything resembling an actual narrative in Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen. If you are looking for a compelling surface story then you need look elsewhere, because this is a movie that is all about allegorical images and themes. Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen unfortunately falls into the type of allegorical movie where its reliance on allegory is both its strength and its weakness.

It is interesting to take in the oddness of Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen. Trying to break down the puzzle put in front of you by Herzog is intriguing, at first. But, the allegories found in Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen aren’t all that deep. It’s rather easy to pick out what Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen is actually about within the first thirty minutes. It is a film about helplessness, anger, imprisonment and the loss of free will. This theme works across all borders, affecting both the inmates now running the asylum, the animals around the complex and the lone individual left who appears to still be in charge of the complex. Various images support the theme, like the beetles in the box or the constant harassment of the blind midgets. For the first forty or so minutes Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen is a film with something to say.

Sadly the movie continues beyond that point and loses any steam it had built up. Once you realize what the allegories are all about the remaining time feels like overkill. Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen is saying the same things over and over again and near the end it reaches the point where the movie loses track of what it wants to say in favor of odd imagery for the sake of being odd. This also calls into question the all midget cast. While visually it works at times by using them as an allegory for how their entire world, and by extension ours, isn’t designed for them and therefore they are prisoners in their own homes. But, there are just as many times when the casting of the midgets creates humor in situations that aren’t supposed to be funny and distracts form what Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen is actually trying to say. It may have seemed like a bold choice at the time, but much like the movie itself the all midget cast feels like overkill after a while.

It isn’t prime Herzog, but Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen is still worthy of the Herzog label. It isn’t a bad movie by any means, it just happens to be a movie that runs out of steam fairly early in its run time. It confronts bigger ideas like Herzog is fond of doing and while uneven is an interesting watch. For any Herzog aficionado or fan of abstract film making Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen is a movie to be seen.




5 responses to “Review: Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen (Even Dwarfs Started Small, 1970)

  1. Unintentional midget humour in a Herzog film must be pretty cool. I should watch this.

  2. Bill Thompson

    I’m telling you man, there is one midget in particular who is hilarious. I don’t think he is meant to be, but he is, the moment you hear him laugh and then watch him try to figure out how to get on a bed you’ll know who I’m talking about.

  3. My impression was a movie made under the influence of LSD expressly for the purpose of entertaining an audience under the influence of LSD. The timeframe fits, and the utterly surreal and chaotic universe it depicts is simultaneously reminiscent of Dali, the Doors “Strange Days” album, Fellini, and Firesign Theatre. Any grand sociological themes derived through analysis of this film are purely coincidental. This is a depiction of a psychedelic experience, including a religious flash when the crucified monkey is paraded around by the dwarfs. It begins and ends completely out of control with the asylum’s keeper – symbolic of the rational intellect – screaming for reason and order, only to experience an escalating vortex of bizarre events beyond his control. When he finally escapes the chaos to reassert his control, it is an utterly futile standown with an immovable natural object only he perceives as requiring control. This could be compared to man’s rational intellect in its misperception of natural forces and the futility of his efforts to understand and control them.

  4. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Directing Props, Pt. 2! | Bill's Movie Emporium

  5. That’s a perfectly valid, and well thought out, impression Rob. I can see a lot of that in the film, I suppose it just hit me on more of a gut level.

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