Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1974: Bruno S. in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Bruno S. did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser is an interesting film that follows a strange young man appearing in a town with only an odd note in hand.

Bruno S.'s performance, as typical for a Herzog lead, is as a man that is either an extreme himself or in an extreme situation. This is the former for the strange man at the center of the film. This is not a film where we are meant to necessarily emphasize with the outsider, Herzog positions us technically closer to the view of the town's people trying to decipher the man. We are only given slightly more information then they are initially since we at the very least see Kaspar as he is in his confinement in a dank basement, and is taught some strange lesson by a man even more mysterious than Kaspar himself. The man leaves Kaspar in the town with the note, and teaches him to repeat a single phrase about becoming a gallant rider, and that is all. After that we are much like the town just trying to understand the man, and it is with this idea that Bruno S.'s performance is built around. S.'s performance is to give us the behavior, but only he is to understand it, not us. In the opening scenes, and his initial moment in town S.'s whole physical performance is of this strange specimen that we're are not expected to fully know. He grants Kaspar wide eyes that seem to take in everything around him, and his body language is distinct almost statuesque. He is a curiosity just from looking at him, which is exactly as Kaspar should be.

Bruno S. succeeds in being compelling just in himself as you watch there is just something about him that intrigues and captivates even beyond his strange note and past. This is essential to the character given that everyone becomes so interested him to the point they present him in a show despite there technically being nothing overtly abnormal about him physically. It isn't just the story though as S.'s performance also brings that strangeness so effectively to life. S. creates the sense that there is a mystery there even though he never tells you what it is. S. gives us a man who has been in an experience that does not relate to any other man in his state of this distance, but it is a certain type of distance that he expresses. S. is carefully not to be off-putting in the early scenes as his whole state of being has this naivety only to Kaspar himself. He's not exactly a child yet there is an innocence to him that makes it as though you not only want to learn more  of the enigma even though S. gives you few additional clues through his own performance to what the man is.

The film has a time jump where Kaspar has learned to easily communicate at least verbally with others, however that in no way removes the mystery of the man. S. portrays the growth in communication is only to a point as even the way he delivers the lines still is more at others, or even to himself rather than with another. He never loses that certain stare of his that now seems to come less of a man who wishes to observe everything around him, but rather of a man whose sight is of some other plain. S. keeps the man as much of a mystery still not allowing you into his plight or to really emphasize with him. Herzog and S. instead keep you still with those around him attempting to decipher what is the story to this man. Every moment of S.'s performance keeps this self containment of the man is. When Hauser mentions his own views on things these are delivered bluntly just as almost random thoughts, and S. portrays these distinctive emotions of the man. He never emotes as a normal person exactly he almost emotes in this particularly intense yet still abrupt and remote way that again keeps him far from an attachment. The main different in the time jump even is that in a way Kaspar becomes less innately likable since now one knows he can communicate yet chooses not to. S.'s performance technically though is of the same man who has just the only difference was his vocabulary of words and knowledge of the world has grown. This is a idiosyncratic performance by Bruno S. as he just is as Kaspar should be. He purposefully is never quite relatable, instead S. gives a performance that succeeds in bringing to life a true enigma that is impossible to fully comprehend.


Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on The Circle and your thoughts on the cast.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast for a 1960's Prisoners and 1980's Wind River.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: I described Jordan’s performance to a friend as some trying and failing to do a drunken impression of Sam Rockwell in The Green Mile.

Charles H said...

This performance is comparable to Rockwell in The Green Mile actually...

Louis Morgan said...


First off The Circle's advertisements were very false as they implied a tech thriller which is not the film. I actually think the film could have worked with someone like Terry Gilliam at the helm. James Pondsoldt's who seems to strive for a realism was on the other hand a terrible choice for what I assume was suppose to be a satire. If the film was directed with a heightened reality the story could have worked but as it is it is truly a bizarre piece since almost no one behaves like a normal human yet it is presented in such a straight forward way. This does make the film frequently unintentionally hilarious though.

Watson - 1(She's just not very good and her American accent her was particularly awkward. It's another case of overemphasis theater from her, but a particularly horrendous version of it. It doesn't help though that her character acts so strange throughout which Watson only makes weirder with her performance that also is very inconsistent in terms of portraying any consistency with the character either. Nothing ever feels natural about her work for even a moment, and what's worse though is there's times where she seems to trying to have a certain style to it, and then there's others when she's trying to be authentic. She fails in both halves either way.)

Coltrane - 1(He's even worse but there isn't anything special about his badness per se. He's just kind of a bad high school actor who happens to be in a feature film.)

Boyega - 3(He's in a tech thriller, which is not the film, and I have to say he does a decent job of selling a non-existent tension in the plot. He's good even if the film seems to forget he even exists most of the time.)

Gillan - 3(She's actually pretty good in playing towards a realistic version of the film. Her performance isn't attune with any satire, but if the film was trying to be a genuine look on the subject she had the right approach.)

Hanks - 3(Not in it enough and it made me wish he had gotten to play a pure evil Steve Jobs alike, as I did like his use of his charm to sugarcoat some pretty horrible ideas. The film underused him here, but I'd say he was game for the satire.)


Prisoners 1960's directed by Sidney Lumet:

Keller: William Holden
Loki: Rod Steiger
Grace: Joan Fontaine
Franklin: Ossie Davis
Nancy: Ruby Dee
Alex Jones: Dennis Hopper
Holly Jones: Claire Trevor
Father Dunn: Henry Hull
Bob Taylor: Joe Turkel

Wind River 1980's Directed by Peter Weir:

Cory Lambert: Scott Glenn
Jane Banner: Sean Young
Martin Hanson: Russell Means
Chip: Michael Horse
Ben: Will Sampson
Matt: Brion James
Pete: Vernon Wells


That's pretty good summation, his final ridiculous facial expressions I thought were particularly detrimental to the film.

Calvin Law said...

Robert: I loved the film but have to admit he was pretty terrible. Fargo Season 2 Jeffrey Donovan would have been a great choice.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 bryan cranston acting moments

Robert MacFarlane said...

Cavin: The film itself has significantly soured on me outside of Renner’s work. I’m starting to realize I don’t like Taylor Sheridan as a writer very much.

Alex Marqués said...

I've read some opinions about Wind River being a bit retrograde, I still haven't seen it myself. I like Sicario a lot, mainly because of Villeneuve's direction but also for having the most human character in a movie as a female and subverting the classical Hollywood female Mary Sue, which clearly caused a lot of people going mad (the original script was apparently even more polarizing), even though I think its main virtues are due to Villeneuve's balancing things as a director, and some choices in the script are far from perfect. But when I see people talking about how Del Toro is a badass in that film while Blunt's character is "annoying", I don't find it the movie's fault the same way I don't find that The Sopranos should be blamed for many of its chauvinistic fans comments, but I see where the criticism is coming from. That being said, probably I'm biased after seeing Villeneuve maneuver through movies where the "macho" aspect is reduced considerably, so I can understand how Sicario doesn't approve the male character's actions.
I also liked Hell Or High Water, even if in retrospective didn't bring many new things to the table, I wonder how WR compares to it considering Sheridan doesn't have a reign on his vision now.