Even Dwarfs Started Small

Dir: Werner Herzog. 1969. German. Foreign/Cult.
Even Dwarfs Started Small

There are some films that are so disturbing and bizarre that you can’t rationally explain them, you just have to experience it for yourself. Even Dwarfs Started Small is precisely one of those films. But seeing I love this film so much I’m going to try to describe it to the best of my ability.

Even Dwarfs Started Small, Werner Herzog’s second feature film, is about a group of dwarfs confined to an isolated institution of sorts. At the film’s start, the dwarfs find themselves left unattended at the institution they are confined to. The dwarfs feel unhappy and trapped in their surroundings and decide to rebel against their authorities. Over the course of the film, the dwarfs destroy anything they can get their hands on at the institution. The rebellion escalates to absurd and disturbing levels as the film approaches its bizarre and hysterical conclusion.

Of course this brief plot summery doesn’t come close to describing the surreal nightmare that is Even Dwarfs Started Small. Cannibalistic chickens, cock fighting, bugs wearing wedding dresses, plants being waters with flaming gasoline, a slaughtered pig nursing piglets, a driverless truck going in circles, a monkey on a crucifix, a defecating dromedary, and a dwarf almost laughing himself to death. These are some of the disturbing images that stick in your brain after watching this movie. And as horrifying as this film might seem I find it somehow incredibly moving. There is a futile rebellion in this film, a rebellion again a world that these dwarfs do not fit into, and I somehow relate with that.

Even Dwarfs Started Small was shot in Lanzarote on the Canary Island off the coast of East Africa. Herzog says that the island had been devastated by volcanic eruption over a hundred years ago, which gave the landscape a stark and barren quality. The black and white cinematography in the film is among the best I’ve ever seen. There are delicately composed shots that resemble surrealist paintings, and wild documentary-like handheld footage that gives the film a living and breathing life of its own. This film isn’t for everyone, but if watched with an open mind just might connect with you. It’s available on Anchor Bay DVD with a great commentary by Herzog and special guest, actor Crispin Glover! (DVD: Anchor Bay)

Posted by:
Eric Kench
Jun 18, 2008 3:43pm
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