The Legend of Kaspar Hauser: an interview with surrealist filmmaker Davide Manuli

The Legend of Kaspar Hauser, the story of a nineteenth century man who claimed to have been raised in total isolation.

Jo Blair

4 Oct 2012

The Legend of Kaspar Hauser, the story of a nineteenth century man who claimed to have been raised in total isolation, is reimagined as an androgynous woman who washes up on a mysterious Mediterranean island. S/he promptly takes on the respective roles of messiah and enemy for the characters of the Sheriff and the Pusher. Director Davide Manuli cast the equally maverick Vincent Gallo in both roles for a visually breathtaking re-working of the German fable.

Our cinema programmer Jo Blair interviews Manuli about the film:

Jo Blair: When I saw the film at Rotterdam Film Festival you spoke about it in relation to the difficulties of communication (if I remember correctly). Could you tell us briefly about this?

Davide Manuli: I think that in 2012 there is a total lack of real communication between social human beings: it's totally fake and totally non-sense, and that's why I wanted to do my Kaspar Hauser now: because i think that it is a modern tale about society nowadays. In 2012 surrealism represents reality much better than 'social realism'. Social realism is what Hinduism calls Maya, or illusion.

JB: How did you come to cast Silvia as Kaspar?

DM: I saw Silvia Calderoni in 2005 in theatre, with the company of Teatro Valdoca, in the masterpiece Paesaggio con Fratello Rotto. In that play she was playing in a naked white body with a giraffe head. I dreamt of her last year, and then I tried to get in touch with her.

JB: Which films most influenced you when making The Legend of Kaspar Hauser, and why?

DM: Stranger than Paradise - Jim Jarmusch: me and my DOP had to watch it a lot of times to understand his use of large optics in one shot. Jarmusch and Tom Di Cillo are two geniuses.

JB: The film's aesthetic reminded me of Werner Herzog's Even Dwarfs Started Small - was this an influence at all? And did you watch and consider Herzog's The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser in any way while making your film, or stay clear of it to retain your own vision?

DM: I watched Werner Herzog's Kaspar Hauser 20 years ago, and i honestly don't remember a single thing. I stayed clear to retain my vision.

JB:  How did the idea come to make Kaspar a DJ?

DM: Electronic music is the present and the future, and the real DJ is a living God that offers a sacrifical rite. In my movie, Vincent Gallo/The Sheriff, is the Master, the Guru that teaches through music all his wisdom to his disciple Kaspar Hauser. At the end of the movie, Kaspar is enlightened in Paradise: he has learned the subtle vibrational craft.

JB: I found the film to be one that works on a very physical level. Is it important to you that audiences strive to 'understand' it or is it enough that they enjoy the experience of it?

DM: The movie has hundreds of layers of understanding, and like any work of art, everyone should get just what he must get. There cannot be a single definition for this movie, everyone is free to define it himself... let's not forget that it's also a movie about individual freedom.

The Legend of Kaspar Hauser screens at our cinemas from 5 - 13 October.

This article is posted in: Blog, Film

Tagged with: Cinema, Davide Manuil, Film, interview, Screening, Vincent Gallo