Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Even Dwarfs Started Small

Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen; Drama, Germany, 1970; D: Werner Herzog, S: Helmut Döring, Gerd Gickel, Paul Glauer, Gisela Hertwig

In some asylum for handicapped people, where all the patients are dwarfs, the police is questioning Hombre about the chaos that erupted. Hombre tells them the story: he and his dwarf colleagues Marcella, Territory, Pobercita and others rebelled and took over the institution. The deputy principal, who is also a dwarf, was surrounded in his office and took their friend as a hostage. Due to boredom, they started doing every kind of nonsense, like killing a pig, burning the flowers and destroying things.

Werner Herzog made a few short movies and a documentary until he directed his second feature length film that was a noticed, the psychological grotesque "Even Dwarfs Started Small" that was hailed as an brave artistic project. Like in his best films "Aguirre" and "Stroszek", Herzog even here displayed how how he likes to shoot shapeless stories about nothing that are not for everyones taste but have some bizarre charm. The exposition, for instance, is shaped like a farce: a chicken is plucking the feathers of a dead chicken; a dwarf announces during his examining: "It's ringing in my ear. Someone must be thinking about me". Since all the characters are dwarfs and amateur actors (the main protagonist Helmut Doring appeared in only one more film during his life besides this one, and that one was also directed by Herzog) the film has a symbolical charge that is filled with bizarre scenes and represents a group of disillusioned outsiders who rebel against the system and order. In one scene, a woman shows his friend a stuffed insect wearing a miniature wedding dress; roosters are fighting while smoke is passing by them...Despite the fact that the ending became almost intolerably mad, Herzog managed to keep violence under control, like in the mild scene where a camel is kneeling on it's front legs (?). For some, this is an allegory of what happens when outsiders are displeased with their lives.


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