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on 29 August 2005
Two of my very favourite films are collected in the set... and one of those I consider to be perhaps the greatest film ever made. The Enigma Of Kasper Hauser is Herzog's ultimate statement away from the more-iconic films he made with Kinski; a moving portrait of a mysterious young man found wandering the streets of Nuremberg with no name, no family, and no recollection of how he came to be. The film has all the usual mesmerising trademarks we've come to expect from Herzog's work; unfolding at a hypnotic pace, with a painterly attention to landscapes, lighting and physical composition, and a central character worn down by the morally bankrupt authority figures in charge of his destiny.
This also features his second collaboration with the actor Bruno S. following their success on Kasper Hauser, with the tragic Stroszek standing as one of Herzog's grand masterworks... a film to be discussed in the same breath as films like Aguirre the Wrath of God, Woyzeck and Fitzcarraldo. The other films featured on this collection go from the great (Even Dwarfs Started Small) to the strange (Heart Of Glass) to the downright obscure (Fata Morgana). As a result, the films on this collection are possibly less accessible than the one found on the original Herzog/Kinski box set from last year, but it's by no means an inferior set. The usual Herzog archetypes, concerns and preoccupations are all apparent in these films, with his early opus, Even Dwarfs Started Small introducing the idea of the outcast, or the misunderstood outsider... a characterisation found in all of these films, with the possible exception of Fata Morgana (which is more like an audio/visual ramble through the world's most mesmerising landscapes).
From what I've heard (and this might be somewhat apocryphal) Fata Morgana began it's life as a science-fiction project... however, during the location scouting, Herzog realised that there was a better film to be made if he just concentrated on the shimmering and hallucinogenic mirages found in the desert landscapes of (amongst other places) Algeria, Spain, Kenya and Mali. It remains one of the most surreal cinematic experiences anyone is ever likely to have, with Herzog refusing to connect his images to any kind of obvious narrative, and instead, uses sound samples and pieces of music to impose a sense of story upon the viewer. His later film Heart Of Glass is another strange one; the story of a village of glass-blowers in the 17th century descending into madness when the method of creating the town's famed ruby glass dies with their elderly patriarch. The plot description doesn't do justice to the film itself, which is filled with haunting landscape shots and all manner of surreal imagery. The most legendary aspect of the film involves the myth that Herzog had all but the lead actor hypnotised... implanting dialog into their unconscious mind, as oppose to merely offering straight direction.
Heart Of Glass might be something of a chore for some viewers, what with it's slow pace and idiosyncratic characterisations (and that ending... which is more like an arcane epiphany than anything approaching closure), but I feel that those who really appreciate Herzog's more difficult films, like Stroszek, Nosferatu, and Woyzeck, will understand the director's intentions and appreciate his stunning use of natural imagery. Stroszek, as mentioned before, is an excellent film... probably one of the key-works of New German cinema. The plot mixes biographical details from Bruno's real life, with a fabricated plot involving his trip to America with an abused prostitute and an elderly eccentric crone. The film is often over-mythologized in this country due to the fact that it was the last film that Joy Division lead-singer Ian Curtis watched shortly before committing suicide... There's much more to the film that that, however, with Herzog presenting us with a heartbreaking tragedy (...with bizarre, darkly comic moments to undercut the gloom) with a number of distinctive scenes (the opening in the prison; Bruno's trip to the premature baby ward; the tourist scenes in and around New York; that ending with the dancing chicken... and more!!) and a clutch of impeccable performances from Bruno, the elderly Clemens Scheitz, and the brilliant Eva Mattes.
This brings us back to The Enigma Of Kasper Hauser (with that great literal title, Every Man For Himself and God Against All)... my favourite Herzog, and one of the key films from the 1970's. Like all of the director's work, Kasper is a deep and ultimately quite bleak film, perfectly captured by Herzog in a style that seems quite similar to Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. And yet, at the end of the day, there's simply no other filmmaker like Herzog... his films have their own style and atmosphere rooted in his use of natural locations and idiosyncratic performers. As noted at the beginning of the review, Strozek and Kasper are two of the greatest films of the 1970's, essential purchases for any true, self-respecting connoisseur of interesting cinema. Even Dwarfs Started Small and Heart Of Glass on the other hand take a little time to sink in (...and it's perhaps beneficial to watch the films through with Herzog's commentary, which helps shed some light on his methods and intentions).
Fata Morgana caps the collection off fairly well... though it's definitely a film for Herzog's most ardent of appreciators (and again... it's perhaps best to give the commentary a listen first, as opposed to just jumping in... Herzog does the best commentaries!!). Still, this is a great collection of work from a distinctive and highly individual filmmaker. Sure, there could have been more films included, like on the R1 release, but I'm certain Anchor Bay will give us a few standalone releases towards the end of the year. Either that, or we can look forward to a third box set sometime in 2006!!!
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on 15 September 2005
This is a great collection of films but once again i feel short changed for buying a region 2 DVD. The region 1 version has two extra films in the set (Lessons Of Darkness and Little Dieter Needs To Fly). If you are new to Herzog then i would recommend the Kinski set first (Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo are simply fantastic) and then try and get hold of the region 1 version of this set. If Anchor Bay are planning a future Herzog set then PLEASE give us in the UK the missing films next time.
Anyway, as in the Kinski set all of the films are excellent but two films stand out and in this case they are (in my opinion) Kaspar Hauser and Stroszek. All films have commentaries and, bizarrely, Crispin Glover appears on a couple.
So 5 stars for the films, print quality, commentaries and price, but one taken off per missing film from the region 1 DVD.
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on 29 September 2010
This review concerns only those who understand German and those who dislike false advertisement.
I bought this Werner Herzog Box Set 2 (green) over amazon.co.uk to save lots of money compared to the German equivalent on amazon.de. This worked out great except for one small annoying thing.
On each DVD it says "German with optional English subtitles" on the back of the cover. This is true for every one of the 5 films except for "Stroszek". Here it won't let me turn off the subtitles! Now why is that? Please correct me if I'm wrong and if so maybe you could tell me how to turn the subtitles off on "Stroszek".
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on 14 November 2011
I bought this set mostly because of the fact that it contains two of my favourite Herzog films: Stroszek and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. However, I was glad that it contained other films by him that I did not know, because it gave me the occasion to know the less famous films by him.

While Stroszek is a film that I can watch time and time again, so tragic yet full of lessons (and the actor is such a wonderful example of Herzog's work with people that were not professional actors). Bruno S. brings his actual self to the screen, since the film is written especially for him. The story goes that Bruno was upset with Herzog for not casting him for Woyzek and using Kinski instead, so Herzog promised to write a script for Bruno, and gave it a name that sounds a lot like Woyzek.

The characters' trip to the Promised Land is also an incredible journey, because you feel the irony of their search for something better than their life in Berlin, only to discover that Wisconsin doesn't hold any Holy Grail or any answers for the meaning of life. The difficulties that appear when they try to talk in English are heart wrenching.
But moving on to the other films, Even Dwarves started small is a testament to Herzog's love of representing the marginalized, the voices of those who are less heard and also need to be portrayed. An allegory of rebellion and violence and the thin line between liberation and chaos, this film is at times both funny and disturbing, making you ask yourself a lot of questions on the absurdity of life and institutions.
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on 27 October 2014
Terrific. I loved Bruno S in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser but here his performance is even better, even considering the fact he may be merely acting as himself. The absurdist, comical, tragic and compellingly odd story draws you in early on and maintains your attention right up to the memorable ending. One of my favourite Herzog films.
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on 30 September 2009
This collection is excellent all the films are unique and compelling to watch.
Werner Herzog has started at the bottom and mastered his craft through his film making years, he is one of the most underated film prducers of our time.
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on 28 July 2010
So far I have only checked out the Enigma of Kaspar Hauser and Even Dwarfs started Small.

Kaspar is a sublime film - it has many Hertzog hallmarks - a bit stiff and theatrical, and ambitious effects which are unfortunately curtailed due to budget. I love this film, but as often with this director it leaves more questions than answers.

Even Dwarfs is frankly irritating. An extraordinary set and plot (what happens when the lunatics take over the asylum, basically). Whilst the freakshow ambience induced by getting real dwarves to act the parts is interesting and unsettling (for a time), this is hardly the stuff of high drama. It is a bit like "Freaks" the banned 1930s US film with the plot, murder and menace removed. What is left ultimately is just wanton vandalism.

I look forward to the other films in the set - I hope to report back in due course.
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I bought this set under a misapprehension. I remember years ago when I was doing my degree watching `The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser' and being impressed. I thought Herzog's was the version I saw, but alas it is not. (I located another version on DVD but it's not that one either!) How enigmatic!

Anyway, having been impressed by Herzog's boxset of films that he did with Klaus Kinski (see my review), I was really looking forward to seeing those contained in this boxset. Unfortunately, the news is not good. The set contains some worthwhile films, but also the worst film in my entire extensive collection. One unfortunate aspect is that Herzog continues to be blind to the sufferings of the animal world.

All of the films in this set come with accompanying commentaries with Herzog. These commentaries are valuable, for Herzog is never less than interesting in what he has to say and never less than articulate in the way he provides his explanations. His insightful anecdotes say as much about him as about the films, and one feels one could never be bored in his company.

The first film (worth four stars) is `The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser' (1974) and is, in my opinion, the best of the lot, despite the problem of the recently-deceased (but then forty-one-year-old) Bruno Schleinstein playing the part of a supposed adolescent. Bruno's unpredictable naivety is often mesmerising, however, and there is a good supporting cast in this tale of the boy who had been locked in a Bavarian cellar for most of his formative years.

The second film in the set (and indeed Herzog's own second film) is `Even Dwarfs Started Small' (1969), filmed in black & white in Lanzarote about a colony of little people mirroring the joys and darkness of society at large. In his commentary, Herzog talks of this film being "a profound nightmare ... the darkest of comedies ... painful to watch" at times. For me, it was a continuous nightmare, one of the worst films I have seen: I give it just one star. All that it demonstrated was that their lives are just as infantile and as boring as our own. There is nothing redeeming about the film at all.

I give the third film in the set, `Fata Morgana' (1971), two stars. It is certainly a product of its time, possessing an often surreal documentary form focussing on the mirages of the Sahara Desert. Whilst I found the examples of actual mirages quite eerie, much of the film has the feel of an amateur's holiday; and like all holiday films, you really had to be there to enjoy it! This is a rare instance where the commentary is far more interesting than the film itself. Herzog says his film is not a documentary but a succession of visions: "I just filmed whatever fascinated me", but the film becomes more bizarre as it progresses.

`Heart of Glass' (1976) returns us to historic Bavaria in the tale of a town's descent into chaos. The novelty of this film is that most of the actors worked under hypnosis, but the result is that the narrative takes second place to the bad acting, the wooden words, the strange gestures, the often deadened pace. Where Herzog talks of inner poetry in the performances, I only saw laboured prose. It is hard work, saved by some beautiful shots of nature. I am being generous in giving it three stars.

The final film, `Stroszek' (1976), sees the return of Bruno Schleinstein in the title role, as he reprises certain semi-autobiographical aspects of his life. In what is arguably Herzog's most accessible film, Stroszek leaves behind his life in seedy Berlin for a new life on the bleak plains of Wisconsin, culminating in one of the most comically inept bank robberies in cinematic history.

The film is worth three stars, which is what I would give the box set overall, but I certainly prefer the Herzog/Kinski collection to the mixed bag presented here. But this set comes in a nice presentational slipcase with additional notes.
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on 2 January 2011
This film is strangely interesting in that it shows bombs being dropped which should be horrific, but it's shown in an artistic way that makes it voyeuristic. Something that we should shudder to see, in fact, you study in a way you might study a painting! Truly interesting from this point of view.
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on 28 January 2013
These films are the best!! Werner's films take a wonderful look at unusual characters,strange music and soundtracks and very whacky stories.
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